Miss the AgTech Summit at the Global AgInvesting Conference last week in NYC? Don’t worry–we grabbed a handful of the big takeaways about AgTech innovation in startups for you.
1. Big Data is blowing up AgTech.
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: software is eating the world, and that definitely includes ag. The summit’s keynote speaker was ex-Googler Dave Friedberg, CEO of Climate Corp, who gave a handful of stats to drive the point home. First, he mentioned Moore’s law, which says the cost of both tech hardware and data transfer is dropping, bringing more sensors, receivers and data into the fields. Friedberg also mentioned the stat that there will be 100 billion more sensors in the world over the next four years, according to research Semico Research. In short, Friedberg said that given the dropping cost of hardware, value lies in the data analysis, not the data itself.
2. Raising money in AgTech is tough…
“There are difficulties to raise money,” said Ignacio Martinez, partner at Flagship Ventures and formerly the Managing Director of Syngenta Ventures. “There aren’t many players with an agtech track record to look at.” Martinez said that we hear the same recycled success stories, and while that means this is a brand new–and therefore, perhaps riskier sector–it also means there’s a lot of room for innovation. When asked what he looks for in a good investment, Martinez said the magic lies in the people and management. “For me, it’s all about the team,” he said. “I focus on the people.”
3. ….but worth it.
Despite being tough, agtech investment is expected to pay off, and already has for many. “What is exciting for investors,” said Syngenta‘s Gabriel Wilmoth, “is that recently there have been several success stories—like the Marrone IPO—that demonstrate the potential for ag technology start-ups to achieve significant exits.” Given some of the big deals in recent years, not the least of which was Climate Corp’s, investors are starting to see the green grass on the other side.
4. AgTech exits are exciting, but need to be well timed.
When it comes to talking about agtech exits, AVAC Ltd. CEO Michael Raymont makes an unlikely comparison. “AgTech startups are like fresh produce. They need to be sold when ripe,” he said. “You must sell your company when you love it the most.” As an early-stage AgTech investor based in Alberta, Canada, AVAC is in the business of providing active, hands-on support to its portfolio companies in order to effect exits, ideally within 3 to 7 years. Soon to close a fund with San Diego-based Finistere Ventures, AVAC will be looking for “game changers,” like super-high yielding crops, naturally occurring pesticides and herbicides, animal health, vertical farming, food distribution and food waste-focused startups.
5. It’s not just about investment, but actually a global interest.
Not surprising given the name, “Global AgInvesting Conference,” presenters and attendees came from around the world to talk ag investment. During the first panel of the AgTech summit, two panelists were from Canadian VCs, one from an Indian VC; and another from the U.S. “I was struck by how international the conference was,” Rob Leclerc, CEO of AgFunder said. “AgTech is a space that not only may lead to great investments, but also an area that is necessary for our future well-being. It’s an international concern, and it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm building.”
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