Finistere Ventures and PitchBook have collaborated to produce the first-ever Agtech Investment Review, utilizing highly curated PitchBook Platform datasets and insight from industry experts to provide a review of key trends within the agtech space.
Report Highlights Include:
- An introduction by Adrian Percy, head of Bayer Crop Science
- Custom datasets on indoor agriculture, plant science and other facets of agtech
- League tables of most active investment firms in agtech VC activity
- A market map of the agtech market with select company profiles
by Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research & Development for Bayer Crop Science
The farming community has always been innovative. By necessity, an industry that dates back thousands of years has required constant adaptation to survive. In years past, farmers battled nature and sought to feed their families. Tomorrow’s farmers will battle climate change and try to feed the world. The advent of technology applications to agriculture is just the latest chapter in that long story, and the need for innovation will only increase as populations and sea levels rise while freshwater and other natural resources diminish.
This all presents a tremendous challenge for mankind. Luckily, we find ourselves in the middle of a scientific revolution, which has not left the agriculture space behind—in the 25+ years I’ve been working in this industry I’ve never seen as many promising technologies as we have today. The torrent of new innovations can be grouped into two primary categories: software and hardware applications, along with advances in biotechnology and a better understanding of ecology. Today digital ag is making progress that wasn’t feasible a few years ago, we’re beginning to understand how microbes relate to plant health, and we’re starting to develop other technologies that include helping plants deal with environmental stress—all of which will have significant near-term implications. The list of fast-moving developments in agtech is long and growing.
To take advantage of this boon requires a large amount of information upon which good farming and good investment decisions can be made. While farming and biological data is beginning to flood in with the advent of new platforms and approaches, catching up with investment data in the industry has, until now, proved tricky. This is why Finistere Ventures, one of the preeminent venture capital firms dedicated to the agtech market, has collaborated with PitchBook Data to produce a first-of-its-kind research report that looks exclusively at agtech investment trends and the relevant companies in the space. We’ve worked hard to carefully curate this data. We believe this is the best agtech dataset available today and provides the clearest look at where investor attention and capital is heading.
While we still have several challenges to overcome, the explosion of interest in the agtech space is evident in these pages. We all know each other in this community. We swap opportunities and work together, almost as a team. I encourage everyone involved in this community to read this report and help us grow it in the years to come.
Gauging appetite for agtech
The agtech industry has been active in some form for more than a decade, but for purposes of analyzing the current agtech scene, a more helpful starting point is 2013. Dubbed “ground zero” by some industry observers, it was in late 2013 when Monsanto acquired The Climate Corporation, along with its team of former Google engineers and data scientists, for around $1 billion. Activity swelled following the deal, jumping from 76 investments totaling $309 million in 2013 to 153 investments and $666 million by 2014. Total value surged even in higher in 2015 to $1.4 billion, a record that will likely be eclipsed this year before the fourth quarter.
The US venture community is providing most of that horsepower. In 2Q of 2017, US VCs committed a record $530 million to agtech startups, representing 47% of global capital invested in agtech so far this year. While these investments largely represent a maturing VC ecosystem surrounding financings for late-stage startups, financings for angel/seed round agtech deals is also continuing to climb. Over the last four years, the number of seed/angel agtech financings has continued to grow. The 81 seed/angel financings recorded last year were a 31% jump from 2015 and more than double the 31 angel/ seed rounds done in 2013. Part of the optimism at the seed stage stems from a lack of corporate R&D spending earmarked for developing new business lines. Most R&D budgets are geared toward improving existing products and services; agtech startups, in a sense, are less disruptive and more complementary of existing corporate offerings compared to the broader tech scene, which points to higher M&A numbers in the years ahead.
The proportionately higher exit potential for agtech startups is leading to promising startups today getting
royal treatment from investors. For example, capital is being increasingly deployed to larger rounds of financing.
Rounds valued at over $25 million accounted for 61% of all 2017 VC invested through August 25; a full 86% of capital went to rounds valued at $10 million or higher. As recently as 2015 those percentages were much lower, with only 29% of capital invested tied to $25 million+ rounds and 63% going toward $10 million+ rounds. It’s likely those percentages will remain top-heavy going forward, given the industry’s preference for proven concepts and greater scale, while angel/seed investors may become more disciplined when financing unproven and unprofitable products. We expect to see an even greater surge in late-stage financing in the years ahead as a nascent agtech industry matures.
Valuations have increased hand-in-hand with late-stage financing. This is partly due to the rush of investor interest following the acquisition of Climate Corp. This is evident in the trend of increasing new and unique investors (crowded market chart below). The number of active investors in 2014 was close to triple the number of investors pre-Climate Corp., and the number of investors has remained high since. Experienced agtech investors note that new players in the sector have been offering higher valuations and steeper step-ups, which is slowing follow-on financing. High valuations may also have an effect on future exit activity, as the pool of potential acquirers will be increasingly limited for highly valued startups.
Note on exits & fundraising
This report is primarily focused on trends in investment for several reasons. The most important factor is that at its current stage of development, agtech simply hasn’t seen a multitude of venture-backed exits. We do highlight prominent exits in the table to the left and we’ll likely delve into such sales more in the future, but for now, this inaugural report was deemed best-suited for focusing on investment trends only.
As for fundraising, we are assessing the most accurate and comprehensive way to track agtech-related funds, as significant methodology questions arise. For example, should purely agtech-focused funds be the only ones considered? Should we focus on just traditional venture or also include, more broadly, growth investments by nontraditional venture investors? As such, we decided to include the most active investors in venture capital funding of agtech companies in an extensive table at the end of this inaugural review, but we have held off from detailing fundraising in agtech more explicitly. In the future, we will look to include more detailed datasets on fundraising, much as we hope to detail exits at greater length.
Should you have questions or thoughts regarding those specific datasets, do not hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].
read the full article here by PitchBook