StartupFarmers’ co-founder, Romain Sautrau, is one of the seed funds fueling the dialogue in the interactive session on ‘where to go for seed capital?’. In advance of that session, we have picked his brain for a bit.
F&A Next: Could you introduce yourself and elaborate on your role in the food and agri innovation landscape?
StartupFarmers: StartupFarmers is an accelerator fund based in Paris, dedicated to AgriTech startups in Western Europe and Israel. Our ambition is to support entrepreneurs building great businesses that bring disruptive technologies and fresh ideas towards sustainable agriculture and food production: better yields, less environmental impact. The accelerator fund will be focused on four different areas: sustainable inputs, digital farming, circular economy, food & distribution. We are currently fund raising ourselves and target a first close by the end of the year.
F&A Next: How do you work with startups in the F&A industry?
StartupFarmers: We support early-stage startups through capital investment, strategic coaching and a go-to-market through our connections with leading players in the agri-food sectors in France. We believe this is the winning recipe to build successful startups, especially in agriculture. This is indeed a very specific industry that is not easy to break through for entrepreneurs that come from other sectors. We basically help them understand the dynamics between the different actors playing in the industry, prioritize markets and adjust their business model for a successful deployment of their innovative solutions.
F&A Next: What trends do you see in the F&A landscape?
StartupFarmers: Greater awareness on innovation! We now see much greater awareness from farmers and agribusiness companies about the disruptive potential of innovation from farm to fork. Greater awareness also from entrepreneurs that developed amazing digital solutions in other industries and now see F&A as a promising market for their products. This is very encouraging!
F&A Next: How is innovation in F&A developing? Which regions seem to be leading the pack and why?
StartupFarmers: F&A innovation is developing steadily! R&D is indeed a significant and growing topic in the agri-food sector. Globally, annual R&D expenditure in food and agriculture represents USD 72bn and grows at a rate of 5% per year according to OECD. This is to be compared to USD 110bn of R&D in healthcare, the world leading industry in terms of R&D effort. In terms of regional dynamics, Europe clearly appears as a leader in agri-food innovation with R&D expenditure of USD 13bn (vs. USD 8.6bn in the US). I believe this is due to the size and the diversity of the agri-food industry on the continent. A number of giants of the food & drinks, agri-equipment or agri-chemical industries have indeed headquarters or at least innovation centers in Europe.
F&A Next: What do you think needs to change for innovation in food an agri to come to fruition?
StartupFarmers: Building up on my previous answer: Europe is a leader in F&A innovation but lacks dedicated venture funds to support F&A startups with the relevant expertise and connections in the industry. Funds focusing on agritech represent a “strike force” of USD 1bn in the US, more than USD 500m in Israel but only USD 230m in Europe (and mostly in the Netherlands!). This situation will have to change to support F&A innovation across Europe… And StartupFarmers is working on it!
F&A Next: What would be your key advice for start-ups in food and agri?
StartupFarmers: Don’t sell promises but facts and numbers! In others words: focus on use case. We see too many startups that struggle to properly quantify the benefits of their products and end up with solutions that look promising on paper but are not economically viable in the field. For instance on precision Ag tools or biocontrol solutions, it is very important to be able to communicate on potential yield gains and/ or cost savings for a successful go-to-market.