A group of investors and entrepreneurs announced the launch of a new food and agriculture venture fund, Seed 2 Growth Ventures, or S2G Ventures.
The fund's goal is to catalyze innovation to meet growing consumer demands for healthy, sustainable and local food. With $125 million in deployable capital and operating funds, S2G is believed to be the largest such fund in the U.S.
Initial investments already made by S2G Ventures include these companies, forming a multi-stage portfolio:
- Mercaris: An online marketplace and data subscription service for stakeholders in organic, non-GMO and other identity-preserved commodities,
- ShopWell: The leading digital platform for personalized food recommendations that improve nutrition,
- MycoTechnology: Developed a revolutionary food-processing platform that improves the taste and functionality of stevia, coffee, grains and cacao reducing the need for masking agents such as sugar,
- Maple Hill Creamery: Leading maker of yogurt and other dairy products made exclusively from certified 100% grass-fed organic milk,
- Beyond Meat: Plant protein with the taste and texture of meat,
- Sweetgreen: A destination for simple, seasonal, healthy food,
- Midwestern BioAg: Better farming through better soils,
- Shenandoah Growers: Premier brand for live and fresh cut herbs.
The S2G leadership team, and several portfolio company executives, discussed the fund during a panel discussion at the New York Times "Food for Tomorrow" conference at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
Victor Friedberg, S2G Ventures co-founder and managing director, presented S2G Ventures' mission and the group's goal to empower world-class entrepreneurs providing the healthy food consumers want.
"We're seeing tectonic shifts in the food industry that consumers are driving. People want better tasting, more nutritious, healthy and sustainable food. The problem is our existing food system is designed to produce cheap calories, and it is not designed to supply healthy, sustainable and affordable nutrition at scale," says Friedberg.
"This provides a great opportunity for innovators and investors, and S2G is seizing the opportunity."
Chuck Templeton, founder and former CEO of OpenTable, and Sanjeev Krishnan, a career investor focused on venture and growth companies, join Friedberg as the team guiding investment decisions at S2G. The investment strategy is described as "soil to shelf", which is a systems approach to investing.
"This $1.4 trillion sector is undergoing massive change and is under-invested with risk capital," says Krishnan. "We think our approach of understanding the system from 'soil to shelf' is a unique and proactive way to create value, minimize risk and feed the changing consumer."
Some key areas of interest for S2G partners are:
- Soil health and sustainable land management
- Organic, non-GMO and other "identity" produce and commodities
- Controlled-environment growing platforms and brands
- Real, nutritious and functional ingredients
- Healthy consumer packaged goods
- Food logistics, including storage, distribution and transportation
- Healthy food retail and restaurant formats
- IT platforms that increase access to healthy, sustainable and local food
S2G Ventures offers companies more than capital.
"We are focused on helping entrepreneurs build businesses that meet the needs of a changing consumer," says Templeton. "By following a systems investing approach with other mission-aligned co-investors and food industry stakeholders, we and our portfolio companies can help make healthy food more accessible and environmentally friendly."