Drones to be Used to Side-Step “Ag Gag” Laws, Photographing Animal Cruelty

Fundings-in-Brief: S2G Invests in Back to the Roots Series A, Ag Drone Company Raises $8m, Aussie Farmland Fund Closes on $200m, more

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Ag Biotech Company Ginkgo Bioworks Raises $100m at Series C

Ginkgo Bioworks, a genetically-engineered microbe manufacturer, raised $100 million in a Series C round of funding with participation from Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, Senator Investment Group, Cascade Investment, Baillie Gifford, Viking Global Investors, and Allen & Company. This brings the company’s total private funding to $154 million over the past 15 months. The new funds will be used to help fuel the company’s growth into new markets, such as commodity chemicals, industrial enzymes and human health markets, as well as to build its next-generation automated foundry, Bioworks2, where Ginkgo’s organism engineers hope to develop new designs at massive scale. Find out more on AgFunderNews.

Back to the Roots Expands CircleUp Campaign into $10m Series A with S2G

Back to the Roots, a California company hoping to help families reconnect with food, has expanded its January crowdfunding campaign on CircleUp into a $10 million Series A. The new investment was led by Acre Venture Partners and also includes funding from food and agtech fund S2G Ventures and early stage tech investors Red Sea Ventures. After launching 10 new products in the last year, expanding into 2,300 schools nationwide, and entering the cereal category, the company has no plans of slowing down. “We are so inspired by the response from our community this year and the opportunity ahead to help families connect the dots between growing and eating food. With our new partners, we will be able to amplify our impact and reach more classrooms, cafeterias, and store shelves,” said co-founder, Nikhil Arora.

“We share Back to the Roots founders’ vision to ‘undo food’ and connect families back to where it comes from,” said Gareth Asten, partner at Acre Venture Partners. “We believe that the future of food relies on transparency, health, and sustainability, and Back to the Roots encompasses all three aspects.” Sam Kass, previously senior policy advisor for nutrition policy at the White House, now of Acre Venture Partners, added: “Back to the Roots’ school education program teaches kids about the food they eat and where it comes from in a hands-on learning environment, which is an essential piece of the puzzle to change how we all think about food. Combined with products that bring those values to the plates of young people, Back to the Roots is on track to help transform food for the next generation.”

Ag Drone Company Sentera Raises $8.5m Series A Round

Drone hardware and software company Sentera has raised a $8.5 million venture capital round with a group of undisclosed strategic investors. The Richfield-based company also unveiled a new version of its software that enables users to chart a path for their drones over farm fields. The app allows the user to configure the drone’s altitude, overlap, sideslip, and sensor configuration. The new capital will be used to make key hires and to boost product development efforts. One of Sentera’s main goals is keeping drone technology simple for farmers and ensuring that its applications are practical. And, although the company offers its own drone device, its software is compatible with other types of drone hardware. The company reports seeing steady growth even during a time when farmers are spending less in the face of high input prices and lower crop prices.

Laguna Bay Closes Australasian Farmland Fund on $208m

Farmland fund manager Laguna Bay held a first close of the Laguna Bay Agricultural Fund on A$280 million ($208 million), after attracting commitments from US institutions. The largest investor on public record is the Washington State Investment Board. The close marks the launch of Laguna Bay’s second investment vehicle for institutional investors; it currently manages the Adveq Almond Trust 2, which produces more than 3% of the world’s diamonds. The fund has a wide mandate within the agricultural sector. It will invest in a portfolio of low-risk, high-quality agricultural assets in Australia and New Zealand, with diversification across sectors, locations, and water sources. The fund will have a final closing by May 2017.

Australian farmland fund managers have had varied success in raising capital over the years. Family farmers within Australia are still the largest source of investment in the sector, according to Laguna Bay, with on-farm investment three times as large as all other sources of investment combined. Farmers are facing increasing challenges to raise enough capital for growth, however, and with limited interest in the sector from local institutional investors, the sector needs the support of offshore institutions like WSIB, and interest from investors in China, the US, UK, Canada, the Middle East and Europe in increasing. WSIB has now made several agriculture investments including into the Californian ACM Permanent Crops Fund, which closed on $250 million last year.

On-Demand Grocery Service goPuff Raises $5m Series A

goPuff, an on-demand convenience store delivery service has raised an additional $5 million from California-based multi stage venture and growth equity investor Anthos Capital. This latest investment closes goPuff’s Series A round on $8.25 million, which will propel goPuff’s expansion into new markets. The company is launching in Portland, OR, and Houston, TX, in June, and Minneapolis, MN, and Nashville, TN, over the next few months, with future plans to roll out in at least seven additional cities by the end of 2016.

The Philadelphia-based company warehouses more than 3,000 products ranging from snacks, drinks, and ice cream to home goods, beer and electronics delivered in 30 minutes or less, according to the company. goPuff currently serves nine US markets including New York City; Washington DC; Boston, MA; Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ; Chicago, IL; and its hometown Philadelphia. This new capital will be used to support new market entry, marketing initiatives and operational expansion, including goPuff’s new 40,000-square-foot warehouse headquarters in Philadelphia.

BcIMC Buys $625m Stake in Glencore Agri, Highlights Appeal of Ag Investment

British Columbia Investment Management (BcIMC) has purchased a 10% stake in Glencore’s agriculture division for roughly $625 million. Glencore is an Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company headquartered in Switzerland. According to BcIMC, investment in the ag industry is “critical to supporting rising levels of global prosperity.” The investment manager’s purchase represents a notable increase in the group’s agriculture holdings, which are centered on its renewable resources fund that includes roughly $1.26 billion under management. The group’s total portfolio encompasses approximately $97 billion. Glencore intends to use the proceeds of the sale to offset some of its existing debt, having received criticism from investors for its elevated borrowing activities.

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