AgFunder's China AgriFood Startup Investing Report 2019 reveals that Chinese food and agriculture startups raised $3.6 billion last year, down 38% from 2018's $5.8 billion. The decrease is partly explained by the absence of outsize transactions like the previous year's, such as Meituan Dianping's $1.5 billion pre-IPO raise. However, China's slowing GDP growth rate, its ‘trade war’ with the US, and the African swine fever outbreak also likely played their part.
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Last year was also more modest than 2018 in terms of agrifood IPOs. As with the previous year, all of 2019's Chinese listings in the sector were in the Premium Branded Foods & Restaurants category, with the largest being Luckin Coffee's $561 million New York debut.
While the overall trend pointed to a downturn in both funding and the number of deals being done, some segments saw an uptick in investor interest. Investment in eGrocery startups rose by 25% year-on-year, with online groceries portal MissFresh - which is backed by Goldman Sachs, Lenovo, and Tencent - closing the year's single biggest funding round at $700 million.
Most of the categories that grew in investment value were upstream, including Midstream Technologies, Farm Management Software, Sensing & IoT, and Novel Farming Systems. While total investment into upstream segments halved in dollar terms compared to 2018, the number of deals in these categories grew by 44%.