The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) has invested €40 million into two agtech funds, including launching a €20 million Ireland-focused agtech fund to be managed by Finistere Ventures.
At the same time, ISIF has invested €20 million in Finistere’s second global agtech fund, which has closed at more than $100 million.
The investments were announced by the Irish Minister for Agriculture Food and Marine Michael Creed today.
“We want Ireland to be the ‘AgTech Island’ – a hub for European AgTech. All the ingredients are here – a longstanding, export-oriented Agri-Food industry; world-leading research at Irish universities and institutions such as Teagasc; and, of course, the thriving IT, biopharma and medtech sectors. Agtech is essentially the combination of all of these, so we see great potential for startups here,” said Finistere’s Kiernan Furlong, who will head Finistere’s Dublin office, its first in the EU.
Finistere’s Arama Kukutai said the ISIF approached the VC about the idea of investing both locally and globally in agtech about 18 months ago.
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The Ireland AgTech Fund will seek to invest in startups in fields like animal health, where the country already excels, but Kukutai emphasized that one of the goals of the effort is to make Ireland an entry point into the EU market, including for some of Finistere’s existing portfolio companies.
The relatively nascent state of Ireland’s agtech sector, said Kukutai, may lead to earlier stage investments than the California-based VC usually makes, and possibly a higher proportion of seed deals to Series A. “We already do seed stage investment but it’s very safe to assume that there will be more of a Seed to A balance,” said Kukutai.
“We think we are going see a substantial pipeline of deals from companies within our mainstream fund,” he added.
Though Finsitere and the ISIF are looking to make Ireland what Kukutai called a “beachhead” for agtech in the EU, he emphasized that developing Ireland’s role in the global agtech scene is not the primary goal. “It’s not an economic development scheme, it’s a fund that’s going to make money.”
Ireland’s agtech ecosystem is largely influenced by agricultural technology player Alltech, a major animal feed firm with its own agtech accelerator, and Teagasc, Ireland’s agriculture and food development authority, which funds research in the country.
Other accelerator programs have planted roots in Ireland. RebelBio (formerly IndieBio EU) is an SOSV-backed seed-stage biotech accelerator offering $250,000 to accelerate biotech businesses in four months, with several agriculture-focused graduates. The accelerator hosts the program in “Carbon Valley,” Cork City, which has been dubbed a startup-friendly and emerging life sciences hub.
In 2016, one of the oldest agritech accelerator programs in the US, The Yield Lab, launched a program in Galway, Ireland, to invest €100k in eight to 12 startups over the next two years. The accelerator chose Ireland as a key access point for European deal flow and to cultivate a stronger presence in the region.