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Data Snapshot: Female founders in agrifoodtech have steadily multiplied since turn of century

March 9, 2022

Data Snapshot is a regular AFN feature in which we analyze agrifoodtech market investment data provided by our parent company, AgFunder.

Almost without exception, the number of agrifoodtech startups with women founders has steadily increased over the last two decades, according to data from AgFunder.

Of the 259 companies founded in 2002 for which AgFunder has gender data, just 23, or about 9%, had at least one woman founder or co-founder. Fast-forward to 2020 and roughly 22% of 1,061 companies had at least one woman on the founding team.

This growth partly reflects the overall rise of foodtech and agtech, two words that weren’t part of the industry vernacular at the start of the 21st century. At the same time, a growing number of female entrepreneurs and leaders has entered the space and that number is expected to continue rising.

Besides a small drop in women founders in 2009, around the time of the global financial crisis, their numbers have steadily risen every year from 2002 to 2020.

At first, it may also appear that there was a substantial dip last year; this is likely explained by the reporting lag, which means our FY 2021 data is extremely likely to be incomplete. AgFunder preliminarily records 316 company launches with 56 women founders during 2021; while the quantities are much smaller than for the preceding few years, the proportion of women founders is roughly the same. (We’ll be keeping a close eye on the 2021 data in case the data signifies a fallout from the Covid-19, which impacted many women’s roles in the household with lockdowns keeping children at home from school.)

Year New companies with at least one female founder Total companies founded
2002 23 259
2003 25 303
2004 37 427
2005 51 459
2006 67 572
2007 83 665
2008 120 747
2009 116 910
2010 172 1,209
2011 244 1,568
2012 366 2,146
2013 453 2,477
2014 545 3,039
2015 647 3,665
2016 617 3,260
2017 593 2,973
2018 503 2,446
2019 389 1,752
2020 238 1,061
2021* 56* 316*

*FY 2021 data is incomplete.

Female founders by category

Since 2002, women agrifoodtech founders have built an increasingly strong presence in upstream categories close to the farm or lab, as well as consumer-facing downstream segments.

Innovative Food, a category that includes startups working on alt-protein and other novel ingredients, has the largest number of women-founded companies. Female founders in this category include longtime serial entrepreneurs like Air Protein CEO Lisa Dyson and up-and-coming founders such as Kesha Stickland of The Mushroom Meat Co and Laura Katz of Helaina.

Online Restaurant & Mealkits comes in second place in terms of women founders; female-founded startups in this category include UK-based The Vegan Kind and US-based Sakara Life, which delivers ready-to-eat plant-based meals.

Female agrifoodtech founders are also particularly prevalent in countries including Australia, Costa Rica and Kenya while they are less common in Eastern Asia and Eastern Europe.

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