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rockstart agrifood

Rockstart reveals first agri-foodtech cohort with €15m to invest in 10 startups

September 18, 2019

Copenhagen-based accelerator Rockstart has selected the 10 agri-foodtech startups to join its first agrifood-only cohort. The accelerator typically works across healthcare, energy, food and agriculture.

The 10 startups yield from Europe, India, and Chile, and will be making the most of the €15 million Rockstart recently raised to invest in them from early through to late stage.

(Find out more about this new ‘Accelerator 2.0’ approach, in an earlier piece by my colleague Louisa here.)

“Agrifood is a domain where there is lots of room for innovation and we, therefore, expect to see many startups turning into global businesses in upcoming years,” said Rune Theill, Rockstart’s CEO. “With Rockstart AgriFood, we want to take a hands-on active role in building these businesses.”

The cornerstone investors in Rockstart AgriFood were Danish state fund Vaekstfonden and Dutch investment group De Hoge Dennen. There were more undisclosed investors yielding from six countries.

Introducing Rockstart AgriFood

Rockstart’s first agrifood cohort runs the gamut of new food and agriculture tech.

For growers and farmers, Chile’s Agranimo is helping farmers, retailers, and insurers use micro-climate date to inform business decision-making; Denmark’s Nordetect is developing nano-sensors for on the spot field testing; Sweden’s Vultus is a precision farming and diagnostics company reducing excessive fertilizer use; and India’s Tractor Junction offers an online machinery market.

(Tractor Junction is also a participant in the Singapore-based GROW accelerator program, a partnership between AgFunder and Rocket Seeder. Find out more from Joe here.)

Sitting between food growers and sellers, Denmark’s Råhandel has developed an online marketplace for small-scale food producers; India’s KrishiHub offers a direct pathway to customers, whittling down layers of middle men in India’s food chain; and Italy’s Wenda is helping food producers and buyers better monitor and track the food supply chain with information on traceability, cold-chain and logistics.

At the customer end, Denmark’s ChefMe is a platform for hiring private chefs and Finland’s Miils is a healthy food information and recommendation tool meant for online food sites.

Finally, Denmark’s The Apple Girl is combatting food waste by repurposing unused goods to make “alternative leather” and other textiles. 

Common impact

The common thread across the cohort is that improving food chain sustainability is baked into their business models. Sustainability and impact are prerequisites for Rockstart’s program because of the business shift in the agrifood sector. “If you don’t have a sustainable angle to your business case, you’re already obsolete,” Mark Durno, Rockstart AgriFood partner told AFN. “If you don’t have positive impact built-in, you’re not going to last.”

Also, Rockstart screened out “consumable” tech for this round. “We decided no ingredients companies,” said Durno, including early startups in the red hot alternative protein sector.

“There’s a lot of buzz in alternative proteins, but we aren’t a megafund. We aren’t throwing $100 million into any one company,” he added, hinting to the alternative protein sector’s capital intensity.

Rockstart’s participants each get €35,000 in immediate capital as part of the program. Rockstart’s fund will also be used to co-invest in later rounds alongside other investors that the teams bring in.

“We support them in finding a lead investor who sets the terms, and then we will automatically co-invest,” Durno explained. “The main story for us is that now, instead of six months of support, we can provide six years and make a positive impact on the agrifood ecosystem.”

Since launching in 2011, Rockstart has accelerated more than 200 startups, which have collectively raised €89 million and created more than 700 jobs. The accelerator’s goal for the next five years is to double the number of companies it supports. It is currently raising funds for its energy and health tracks as part of that effort.

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