China AgriFood Startups raised $1.8 billion in 2017 with the vast majority of investment ($1.7bn) flowing to businesses operating downstream, close to the consumer. Support from the country’s technology giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent at both the early and late stages, drove a significant portion of the year’s investment activity.
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Different from the US and Europe, the majority of China’s homegrown agrifood startups focus on advancing new food experiences and business model innovation; few are centered on technological innovation, yet.
Downstream startups focused on consumer-facing innovations dominated 2017 investment with 149 deals and $1.7 billion of investment compared to 28 deals raising $106 million upstream at the farm level. Some international food tech companies seized the open field upstream to import their on-farm innovations to China.
Consumer willingness to pay more on high-quality and premium products is a key theme in China’s agrifood industry as well as a major driver for the overall economy. For this reason, startups addressing this trend are included in this report even if they lack a technological element, and represent the largest portion of deals in 2017.
China technology giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent invested at least $740 million in agrifood startups and were responsible for $5.8bn in M&A during the year, which is good signaling for entrepreneurs and investors entering this fledgling startup sector.