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The Loam Bio Team in Australia
Loam Bio makes seed coatings that help soil sequester carbon. Image credit: Rachael Lenehan Photography

Data snapshot: From ‘lightning in a box’ to microbial carbon capture, agrifoodtech investment moves upstream in Australia as investors focus on climate mitigation

April 3, 2024

Data Snapshot is a regular AgFunderNews feature analyzing agrifoodtech market investment data provided by our parent company, AgFunder.

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Parts of Australia are considered climate hotspots, experiencing some of the most extreme impacts of climate change. It follows, then, that the bulk (87%) of agrifoodtech funding last year went to upstream startups focused on climate change mitigation, from soil carbon storage startup Loam Bio to livestock methane reduction players Rumin8, Number8 Bio and Provectus Algae, to insect farmer Goterra, which transforms food waste into more sustainable animal feed and fertilizer.

Checks also went to innovative startups deploying super-high voltage electrical fields (‘lightning in a box’) to boost crop yields (Rainstick), autonomous vehicles to reduce labor costs and chemical inputs on farms (SwarmFarm Robotics), and radio telemetry for tracking animals (Wildlife Drones).

However, there were a handful of deals in downstream categories, from eGrocer Our Cow to wholesale ordering platforms FoodByUs and FOBOH, food ordering app Liively, and restaurant tech platform Restoplus.

Like most countries covered in AgFunder’s recent Global AgriFoodTech Investment Report, agrifoodtech investment in Australia peaked in 2021 and then dropped off sharply thereafter. However, the 33% decline in funding to Australian agrifoodtech startups in 2023—while hardly cause for celebration for founders desperately seeking capital—was more modest than the 49% drop in global agrifoodtech funding over the same period.

While investment in agrifoodtech startups in Australia has fallen over the past two years, moreover, funding in 2023 was also significantly higher than it was in 2019 before the pandemic and the following heady period of cheap money, mega funding rounds and inflated valuations. In contrast, overall investment in agrifoodtech startups on a global basis was lower in 2023 ($15.6 billion) than in was in 2019 ($21.4 billion).

  • 2023: 29 deals (-29%) $187.1m -33%
  • 2022: 41 deals (-33%) $278m -32%
  • 2021: 61 deals (+17%) $410.9m +88%
  • 2020: 52 deals (+33%) $218.1m +173%
  • 2019: 39 deals (-5%) $79.9m +53%

It’s too early to say how 2024 will shape out for Australia’s startups, although preliminary AgFunder data suggests things have not picked up in the first quarter of this year.

Rumin8-and-Investors-at the demo plant in Perth, Western Australia
Rumin8 makes feed supplements for livestock methane reduction via precision fermentation. Pictured L-R: Dr. Stewart Washer, cofounder, Rumin8; Dr. Peter Turner, partner, Breakthrough Energy Ventures; Mark Cupta, managing partner, Prelude Ventures; and David Messina, cofounder, Rumin8 at the opening of the firm’s demo plant in Perth, Western Australia. Image credit: Rumin8

Top 10 agrifoodtech funding rounds in Australia, 2023 (all figures are in US dollars):

1 – Loam Bio raised $73.2 million in a series B round co-led by Lowercarbon Capital and Wollemi Capital in February 2023. The capital was used to expand the availability of its seed coating that supercharges plants’ ability to store carbon in the soil.

2 – Arundel, Queensland-based Stacked Farm—which operates automated indoor farms growing leafy greens—raised $26.7 million in June 2023 in a round led by Tayside Investments Australia. The fresh capital was used to begin construction on a new 7,200sq m facility in Melbourne.

3 – Eden Brew raised $15.4 million in a series A round led by Main Sequence Ventures in October 2023 to help build its ‘animal-free’ dairy business. Eden Brew will produce all four casein proteins found in dairy milk individually via precision fermentation and ship the protein powders to dairy partner Norco, which will combine them with other ingredients to make milk.

4 – Perth-based Rumin8—a startup using precision fermentation to produce bromoform, a bioactive in red seaweed that reduces methane emissions in ruminants—raised $12 million in a seed round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures in January 2023. The capital was allocated to commercial trials in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and the US, and pilot manufacturing plant development.

5 – FoodByUs—a Sydney-based wholesale ordering platform for foodservice companies—raised $12 million in a series B round led by Base Capital in January 2023. The company enables cafes, hotels, bars, pubs and clubs to source wholesale food supplies, streamline their procurement processes, and compare prices on hundreds of thousands of products.

6 – Shiitake mushroom-fueled alt meat startup Fable Food raised $8.5 million in a series A round led by K3 Ventures in February 2023. The firm, which has developed proprietary cooking processes to improve the meaty, umami flavors of the mushrooms and de-emphasize the traditional sulfuric mushroom flavors, is focusing on the premium quick service segment with a health focus. [Disclosure: AgFunderNews’ parent company AgFunder has invested in Fable Food.]

7 –  SwarmFarm Robotics raised $8.4 million in a series A round led by Emmertech in February 2023. The capital will help expand its self-driving ‘SwarmBot’ fleet and SwarmConnect operating system enabling it to program its autonomous vehicles to engage in specific tasks from weeding to precision spraying.

8 – Konvoy Kegs— which rents beer kegs to brewers—raised $8.2 million in a series E round in October 2023. The capital injection was used to expand operations to the UK and Ireland and expand its Konvoy Cloud IOT keg tracking solution to other keg fleet owners.

9 – Canberra-based Goterra—which uses insects to convert food waste from partners including Woolworths into animal feed and fertilizer—raised $6.6 million in August and an undisclosed sum in December to expand its black soldier fly larvae farming operation.

10 – Medical cannabis company Cannaponics raised $3.5 million in a crowdfunding round in May 2023 via facilitator Birchal. Based in the mining town of Collie, WA, Cannaponics has 67ha of land for cannabis cultivation and a 3,600sqm greenhouse that uses a rapid but gentle drying process called radiant energy vacuum technology from EnWave Corp to dry cannabis flowers. The fresh capital was used to complete the construction of its manufacturing facility at Collie and build a 1-megawatt solar energy farm.

Konvoy Kegs
Sydney-based Konvoy Kegs—which rents beer kegs to brewers—has developed a keg tracking solution enabling brewers to track their kegs and monitor key parameters such as temperature. Image credit: Konvoy Kegs

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