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Finistere Ventures, Cloud Break Advisors Team Up with Industry Players to Launch the Radicle Agtech Accelerator

June 22, 2016

Life sciences and agtech venture capital firm Finistere Ventures, Caribbean and South American private equity investors Cloud Break Advisors, and a group of leading agriculture companies including Bayer and DuPont have launched a new agtech accelerator called Radicle.

Radicle has raised $6 million in early commitments for a fund that’s targeting $15 million overall.

The program’s name –Radicle — derives from the botany term used to describe the portion of a plant embryo that develops into the plant’s primary root. The accelerator will examine challenges facing farmers’ productivity, sustainability, and yields. They’re also eager to see disruptive or novel farm systems.

Radicle will have offices in various regions across the US including San Diego, Palo Alto, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, the Midwest, and international presences in key areas like Israel, Australia, and Canada. It’s this global reach that helps set Radicle apart from the ever-growing crop of new ag-focused accelerators popping up, Kirk Haney, CEO at Cloud Break Partners, recently told AgFunderNews. To that end, Radicle will not require its startup companies to relocate to any specific location.

“We have an incredible global network of experienced ag entrepreneurs, investors, and research institutions — all pulled together in a virtual way,” says Haney.

The program’s breadth and format also address the nuanced timeline and capital needs that agtech startups often require.

“Our average investment size is $500k, which is a great stepping stone compared to the Silicon Valley software model. That model doesn’t apply to ag. You need reasonable capital to do field trials. They take time and cost money,” explains Haney. “We need to get entrepreneurs and startups sufficient capital to get to the next milestone, so half a million with roughly one-year of time is a sufficient way to do that.”

With this broad global focus, there may be some concerns about narrowing down deal flow and focusing on the most promising opportunities in the face of an endless firehose of markets, technologies, and dynamics.

To address this, Haney and the Radicle team have identified five key focus areas: biologicals, digital agriculture, seed traits, novel farm systems, and a catch-all category they refer to as “opportunistic” for those deals that don’t fall within the four previous categories but which are too good to pass up.

“As a CEO for over 12 years, having raised over $200 million in venture, private equity, and corporate capital, sometimes you just know a deal is going to be successful,” he says.

Haney also distinguishes Radicle based on its intent to partner with other accelerators, incubators, and programs instead of competing with them. Some of Radicle’s peers may be engaging in smaller investments covering shorter time spans compared to the program’s formats. According to Haney, this may not be enough to get a startup to a Series A institutional round. Radicle is hoping to bridge that gap.

Operating at the worldwide level may help Radicle attract new partners, including funds and venture capitalists who lack the subject area expertise in agriculture that Radicle’s members provide, but who are keen to get involved in the space. This is particularly crucial given the far-reaching and non-concentrated nature of our global agriculture system, notes Haney.

“What people need to realize about Silicon Valley is that entrepreneurs, funding sources, and acquirers are all located within a 15-mile radius. It’s all right there. Agriculture is not that way. It’s a 10,000-year-old industry that is highly fragmented with a global demand.”

For Radicle, having the right partners with the right networks is key to the program’s success.

Based in California, Finistere has a long history of making agtech investments, counting CropX and ZeaKal among its current portfolio holdings. Finistere recently started fundraising for a new fund – Willow Hill Ventures — alongside farmland investment manager International Finance Corp.

Major global ag corporations DuPont and Bayer round out the beginning roster of partners with their corporate perspective and experience. And OurCrowd, a capital crowdsourcing platform, is also a strategic partner for Radicle. It may serve as a fundraising avenue for Radicle companies down the road, says Haney.

As venture capital investment in agtech continues to grow and as more programs designed to help agtech startups succeed enter the market, entrepreneurs and founders may find themselves overrun and overwhelmed with options. It may become difficult for some of them to prioritize what they need the most.

“They need a network. A network of people on the entrepreneurial side, like operators who have done it before, access to people to advise them on how to raise capital,” explains Haney. “Anyone can raise capital and put a fund together, but having deep agricultural roots and the ecosystem that we have in this category at the global level makes us different. It’s exactly what entrepreneurs need.”

Radicle’s leaders will share their perspective on the future of agtech and their vision for the program during a number of industry panels at the upcoming GAI AgTech Week in San Francisco, CA. AgFunder founder and CEO Rob Leclerc will also be participating in a panel discussion at the event on Wednesday, June 22.

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