We all have to eat but what we are eating matters more and more. No surprise then that a record $30bn+ of deal activity probably occurred in the agrifoodtech sector last year. With more than 2,700 deals announced in 2020, the total sum invested exceeded 2019’s figure by 30%, based on the latest recently released findings by AgFunder, a leading specialist venture capital business.
The term ‘agrifoodtech’ may smack somewhat of hype, but it can be best thought of as encompassing a wide array of initiatives spanning farm to fork. Investments made during 2020 in the former category (or the upstream segment of the market) surpassed those in the latter for the first time in seven years. This space comprises everything from crop science, genomics and the microbiome to farm robotics, sensing and the deployment of internet capabilities via indoor farming, aquaculture and insect production. Per AgFunder’s report, the number of innovative food start-ups have doubled in the last year.
We have been tracking the industry’s progress for some time, but it is interesting to consider what is spurring the recent acceleration in investment. Several trends seem to be at work: consumers say increasingly that they value personalisation over scale with an increasing emphasis on ‘fixing’ rather than just ‘feeding’ – better food with a lower carbon footprint. Kerry Group, a provider of innovative food solutions, recently coined the term the ‘&’ consumer. What this means is that consumers have multiple expectations that food businesses need to fulfil; they want food that tastes great and is healthy/ nutritious and trusted and local and has both purpose and sustainability.
Edmund Scanlon, Kerry’s Chief Executive spoke passionately about this topic when we caught up with him virtually last month. The business is responding in terms of its own offerings and it is notable that large fast-moving consumer groups such as Nestlé and Unilever are also increasingly emphasising the importance of the provenance and sustainability of their products. In the past week we have also met virtually with several leading salmon businesses. Two of the key consistent messages from these meetings were about raising the sustainability of fish production and promoting the health benefits of salmon as a protein source. As one Chief Executive put it to us, the company’s mission involves “moving closer to the customer.”
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in Kerry Group. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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