The founder of Rockit Global, the New Zealand company that holds the global rights to the mini Rockit apple variety, has sold over 50% of the company to two private equity firms Pioneer Capital and Oriens Capital for around N$25 million ($17 million).
Rockit Apples, which are a patented plant variety, specially bred to be small and crispy, are sold as a snack in tubes of three or five hoping to target the on-the-go consumer and children.
With an enterprise valuation of just over $50 million today, shares have increased in value 10 times since 2011, according to angel investor Bill Murphy.
“This result, while not cash-in-the-pocket, is a great outcome for the angel investors in these companies, the early-stage investment community and the agtech sector in New Zealand,” said Murphy in a blog post.
“Not only does it demonstrate that it is possible to get close to that mythical 10x return, but that it’s possible to achieve that in a New Zealand food/agtech company. That’s something we’ve been working on for years.”
Murphy is director of Enterprise Angels, which invested in Rockit Global in 2011. It also invested in the Rockit Orchard Limited Partnerships to become the first large-scale growers of the Rockit apple variety in 2012.
The mini apples can also be purchased in the Northern Hemisphere where Borton Fruit and Chelan Fresh — which recently merged — are the exclusive licensees for the patented plant variety, with the rights to grow, pack and distribute in the USA, Canada & Mexico.
“Borton Fruit had the first harvest this past fall, and we just finished packing the variety last week,” said Sky Johnson, sales & marketing for Borton Fruit. “Most of the distribution we have pushed out this Spring and Summer was sent to AmazonFresh. I have high hopes for where that retailer may be able to launch the Rockit into the future, pun intended!”
Johnson was excited by the recent funding round for Abundant Robotics, the robotic apple picker, and has supplied Rockit apples for the startup to use in testing, he told AgFunderNews. Borton has also engaged in trials with Rockit with AGERpoint, the precision ag sensing and analytics startup dedicated to permanent crops. AGERpoint raised a Series B round of $5.5 million last year and previously raised Series A funding on AgFunder.