Future looking agri-tech attracted significant funding in 2020 – insect farming, gene-editing technologies, alternative proteins – were among the innovations that attracted the eyes (and pockets) of the investors according to a recent report by Agfunder. The findings are one indication that the agri-tech sector is responding well to recent challenges, but it is only part of the picture.
“How is the pandemic affecting your business?” is probably one of the most Frequently Asked Questions of the last year. From individual farm and agri-food businesses, to global financial systems, Governments, funding agencies and the media are keen to establish the impact of Covid-19.
We have a year of hindsight, data and evidence on which to base our collective reflections and surely the last 12 months will be the subject of huge numbers of research projects, enquiries, investigations, analysis – eventually – history lessons for decades to come.
Among the multiple unknowns of 2020 was the way in which investors would respond.
2020 AgriFoodTech Investment
AgFunder’s 2020 AgriFoodTech Investment report has analysed thousands of deals, tracked the performance of companies and investors globally, and the results are reassuringly positive about the ongoing vibrancy of the sector.
With the highest ever annual financing since 2012, an encouraging $26bn was invested into the sector, with around half of that going into companies developing technologies up to and including the farm gate (rather than down-stream consumer-facing food innovations).
Disruptive technologies and innovations that increase supply chain efficiency proved attractive to investors – and despite a slight downturn in farm management software and sensing technologies, these held at the very respectable levels seen in 2019 in terms of value.
The UK topped the charts in terms of the European deals, ranking number four in the world (after the USA, China and India) with $1.1bn of investment over 133 deals. Given the uncertainties associated with the UK’s exit from the EU, it’s encouraging data. (Some examples of UK companies with success in fund-raising include Better Origin who have just raised $3M to develop an AI-enabled mini insect farm for black soldier flies).
The Industry is Growing Up
An important trend is reflecting the maturation of the industry, with the first wave of agrifoodtech innovation beginning to realise its potential, and those all-important exits started to happen. The “farm-tech” mergers and acquisition or other exits are starting to happen, helping to build investor confidence in the success of the sector, and also showing there is money to be made. It is probably no coincidence that Israeli irrigation-tech company Rivulis topped the charts of these kinds of deals, with an exit worth $365m – showing the increasing focus on water which will be no surprise to many farmers reading this.
So how is the pandemic affecting YOUR business?
We are proud to be working alongside colleagues in ADAS and the University of Gloucestershire and others on an Innovate UK-supported project to help establish the impact of the pandemic on knowledge exchange in agriculture.
The project aims to co-design a new digital solution – Farm-PEP – that connects projects and people. As well as a survey and interviews, we are hosting a workshop to help unpack the challenges. The outcomes will be made available in a report in early summer 2021 so stay tuned for an update!
If you’d like to get involved in co-designing Farm-PEP and shaping the future of knowledge exchange in agriculture, we would love to hear from you.