AgriFood Tech startups, innovating from farm-to-fork, raised $10.1 billion in 2017, a 29% year-over-year increase. Mirroring the global VC markets, there was a considerable decline in deal flow (-17%) mostly due to a large contraction in seed stage funding. Agrifood tech is maturing, but a loss of activity at the seed stage doesn’t bode well for years to come.
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The agrifood tech sector appears to be rebounding from the lows of 2016 when funding dropped 17%, bolstered by large deals, which characterized 2017 funding for agrifood tech startups as the sector continued to mature and some large, international investors placed bets.
The size of these rounds and the nature of the investors -- which include private equity capital -- indicate the intention of some of these startups to build stand-alone businesses with no plans for acquisition by the majors. Farm tech did finally see some exciting exits however with John Deere acquiring robotics company Blue River Technology for $305 million, and DowDuPont acquiring farm management software platform Granular for $300 million. Both exits were applauded by investors as large agricultural corporates look to acquire the innovation they find difficult to foster in-house. Corporate VCs were also more active this year.
The investor base participating in agrifood tech deals continued to diversify with 1048 unique investors participating during 2017 including Silicon Valley venture firms, state-backed government funds, pension funds, corporate entities, as well as the growing number of agrifood tech specialists. Investment activity also increased from outside the US with Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Israel, and Ireland showing signs of growing agrifood tech ecosystems.