Welcome to AgFunderNews’ weekly roundup of funding and industry news from across the globe. This week, the increasing pension fund interest in farmland as an investment was further confirmed with a new $100 million commitment, while a private equity-backed Indian dairy company added to its recent IPO fundraising effort, and a couple of wine technology fundings were sure to have enthusiasts raising their glasses.
While institutional investment in US farmland still represents only 1 percent of the $2.4 trillion US farm real-estate market, it has grown in recent years and now stands at around $2 billion over the past two years, according to iiSearches, a data arm of media firm Institutional Investor.
And that’s just the US. TIAA-CREF, the teaching industry’s pension fund and asset manager, closed a $3 billion farmland-investment partnership in August, to invest in Australia, Brazil, and the US, following its previous $2 billion vehicle in 2012, as investing offshore increasingly gathers space.
So this week’s $100 million commitment to a Brazil farmland fund by Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement Fund (OPERF), is continuing this trend. The Brookfield Agriculture Fund II is targeting $500 million overall and includes another recent commitment from New Mexico State Investment Council which invested $75 million into the fund in April.
OPERF also announced earlier this month that it has teamed up with Alaska Permanent Fund to make a combined investment of $300 million into a new joint venture designed to invest in timberland managed by Silver Creek Capital management and real estate investment trust Plum Creek Timber Co.
Moving across the prime meridian to India, Prabhat Dairy, the milk products manufacturer and distributor, raised $12.8 million from TVS Capital Funds, an Indian growth equity fund. The investment follows Prabhat’s underwhelming Rs3 billion ($45.2 million) IPO last month, which involved a reduced stake sale by the company’s private equity backers Rabo Equity Advisor’s India Agribusiness Fund and French development finance institution Proparco.
Indian Food e-commerce remains hot this week with InnerChef, an online food delivery tool, closing a $1.6 seed round. The Gurgaon-based outfit offers online food discovery tools paired with a home delivery service designed to help customers tap into their inner chef. The round involved 12 investors, all with resumes detailing experience in the startup realm, and whom InnerChef referred to as “leading Indian and International Technology founders.” The company’s announcement comes only a day after the launch of its “Hyper Local Desserts Marketplace” dubbed Indulge. The funding will be used to expand the company’s footprint, including the launch of 10 new kitchens throughout Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.
India continued to clean up this week, after VillFarm, a sustainable farming inputs manufacturer, completed a seed round of investment. The undisclosed round included investment from R Ramarj (founder of Sify), Rianta Capital, and Unitus Seed Fund, as well as a number of non-resident impact and angel investors represented by Sunil Edwards. The Bangalore-based company produces organic seed treatment, active growth, and pest management products. It plans to use the funding to expand its product line and distribution channels throughout Southern India.
StartUp Accelerator and global VC 33entrepreneurs continued its mission to disrupt the wine & spirits, food, and travel industries with two fundings this week. The firm, which provides pre-seed, seed round, and follow-on funding, invested nearly $17,000 in real-time wine production monitoring startup Winegrid and another $17,000 in vineyard management app system eVineyard.
In mergers & acquisitions, consumer goods company Post Holdings is planning to acquire Oregon’s largest egg producer, Willamette Egg, for $90 million. Based in Canby, OR, Willamette Egg owns two large production facilities in Oregon and Washington. Post’s CEO and president Rob Vitale said in a statement that the acquisition of Willamette will increase Post’s leadership as the largest provider of cage-free egg products in the country while also boosting geographic flock diversification. Post plans to consolidate Willamette Egg with its existing Michael Foods egg business, which the company acquired in April 2014 for $2.45 billion. Post anticipates completing the acquisition during the first quarter of fiscal 2016.
And elsewhere in the industry… the inaugural US-China Strategic Agricultural Innovation Dialogue (SAID) kicked off last week, with many sources predicting that agriculture biotech will be a hot topic during the event. In advance of the event, two US Senators, both members of the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee, led a bipartisan group of 42 senators in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to address US concerns about China’s biotech approval process. The letter states: “To reinvigorate last year’s progress, we ask that you seek a commitment from President Xi to move forward with the queue of biotechnology products, including those awaiting final import approvals.”
That’s it for this week’s agtech investment news blitz. Check AgFunderNews.com for more in-depth agriculture and technology coverage such as how agtech companies are taking U.S. tech competitions by storm.
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