By Frank Buhagiar on Wednesday 14 December 2022
Tune in to Episode 15 of FFF’s podcast series to hear David talk all things agtech with Michael Kime and Mark McCall of iSelect Fund, “one of the most interesting agtech-focused investors”.
The two iSelectors are well-placed to comment on the agtech space. As Mike explains: “We started investing seven to eight years ago very small amounts in very early-stage companies that were in the R&D phase of their technology development…we have grown up with the industry” - having started with early-stage companies, today the open-ended fund the pair run is now more weighted towards mid-to-late-stage opportunities. Select are working with Nimrod Capital LLP in the UK to launch a new fund focussed on food and agtech investments targeted at institutional investors.
So, when David asks the duo what the term ‘agtech’ means they don’t just roll out the standard response: “giving robots to farmers”. They highlight how “agriculture is one of the least digitised industries in the world…” They also talk about the numerous applications and opportunities that have the potential to transform the industry from biologics displacing nitrogen fertilisers, the efficacy of which is on the decline, to the breeding of new plants better suited to cope with either a lack of or too much water.
Keen to pick their brains, David steers the interview to cover “biologics, robotics, plant biotech, big data and more nascent areas such as vertical farming and carbon markets.”
The three also find time to discuss valuations across the sector and venture capital’s place in it, particularly in light of this year’s volatile markets and heightened geopolitical concerns. In terms of valuations: “Every quarter we’ve set out quarterly statements where our valuations are up. We’ve had multiple up-rounds in our portfolio over the past 6-9 months,” explains Mike. “Global events have highlighted the need for these technologies and highlighted that they are becoming more commercially viable. We don’t know if up-rounds will persist but our experience this year is different to the broader market,” adds Mike.
In terms of the venture capital funds, Mark points out that agtech “…is not a saturated market and because only about 3-4% of total VC dollars are going into this area right now, you’ve got particular players that understand it…I don’t think we have as much froth as elsewhere.”
So, if you want to learn about ‘breeding in the cloud’, what is needed for carbon markets or regenerative farming to take off or plants that change the colour of their leaves to let the farmer know it is being attacked by a pest or is in need of water, plus a whole lot more, have a listen to what the agtech experts have to say…
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