A new venture capital firm has entered the agriculture technology market to invest in startups at Series A and Series B stage. St Louis-based Lewis & Clark Ventures this week held a $20 million first close on its first agtech fund, which is targeting $45 million in total, according to SEC filings.
Lewis & Clark Ventures was founded in 2015 by venture capital veteran Tom Hillman who sold his stake in Answers.com during its $1 billion acquisition by Apax Partners. It launched with a $104 million general fund focused on agricultural technology, enterprise software, healthcare technology and financial technology, but raised the agtech fund after receiving investor interest for a dedicated agtech fund, according to Scott Bernstein, vice president.
The fund will invest between $3 million and $7 million in each deal, and the company recently brought on three plant science PhDs to work on the fund. They include Ralph Quatrano who, among other appointments, was research manager in Central Research and Development at DuPont and a consultant for Monsanto. Also joining as venture partner is David Russell who was lead on Monsanto’s Biotechnology Prospecting Team from 2007 to 2016, and Larry Page, who joined from PierianDx, a start-up specializing in clinical bioinformatics, as an associate.
The Lewis & Clark Plant Sciences Fund will focus on precision ag technologies, plant genomics, soil and crop technology, biomaterials and “anything related to food sustainability, irrigation, and water solutions,” said Bernstein.
While the firm would not disclose the investor line-up of the agtech fund, it said the majority of its LPs across both funds were local to St Louis where Hillman has a strong track record in venture capital and private equity investing.
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Lewis & Clark Ventures joins a growing ecosystem of agtech startups and investors in St Louis where this week the Ag Innovation Showcase is taking place at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center.