On paper, things look pretty bleak for venture capital. Investments are down 60% compared to the market peak in late 2021, and agrifood tech is no exception. But on the ground, things look more positive than the cold numbers indicate. Participants at the F&A conference – attended by 700 start-ups, investors, etc., and sold out weeks in advance – were brimming with energy and high expectations without losing sight of reality.
A mixed bag with strong upward potential: that’s my one-sentence summary of the current state of the agrifood tech sector after two days at the bustling F&A Next Conference 2023.
Takeaway One: Early Days for Agrifood Tech
Agrifood tech is only just starting to mature as an investment theme and is far from overheated. The $2.4B invested over 2022 in upstream ag-biotech equals half of Coca-Cola’s annual marketing budget and falls far short of the flows needed to transform the sector.
Takeaway Two: Increased Focus on Biodiversity
With human impact on nature and biodiversity increasingly in the international spotlight, start-ups boosting biodiversity – from regenerative farm practices to sustainable crop protection – are getting a lot of traction right now (an insight from a panel moderated by Delphine de Brogniez of Yara International interviewing Alasdair MacLeod of Machdoch, Alexa Firmenich of Crowther Lab | ETH Zurich, and Simon Haldrup of Agreena).
Takeaway Three: Animal Health
Animal health is another category that is drawing much attention, and for good reason: 20% of livestock dies prematurely of disease, while the livestock industry uses more than 70% of all antibiotics. Medicine tailored for animals can move both forward and, last but not least, serve as a first line of defense against zoonotic diseases (as concluded by a panel moderated by Justin Sherrard of Rabobank interviewing Aaron Schacht of BiomEdit, Ellen de Brabander of Elanco, and Pierre-Joseph Paoli Paoli of ADM).
Takeaway Four: Younger Workers Want to Work in Agrifood Tech
Agrifood tech companies are winning the talent battle. Many agrifood tech start-ups looking for tech talent report that résumés from Millennial and Gen-Z applicants looking for purposeful work are piling up.
Takeaway Five: The Role of Governments
Governments can play a viable role in accelerating the transformation but need to focus on regulation and incentives that drive innovation and more sustainable farming practices while we try to wean our farming economy from its subsidy addiction (as was the conclusion of the fireside chat with Anuj Maheshwari of Temasek and Feike Sijbesma)
F&A Next 2023 was an exhilarating and nourishing experience packed with insights and exciting interactions. So don’t miss the next edition (22-23 May 2024): pre-registration is now open at www.fanext.com/tickets.