In its annual report, AgFunder is reporting agrifood tech investing got back on track in 2017 after a relatively subdued 2016. The past year saw a record level of venture investment–29% increase in year-over-year funding for agrifood technologies.
The data used in this report comes from Crunchbase and AgFunder contributes a significant portion of raw data through its own data collection methods.
AgFunder further breaks down agrifood categories, ranging from grocery-related technologies to on-farm technologies.
In all agrifood startups raised funding in 59 countries, and the U.S. had a majority of the overall deal count with 42% of deal activity and 45% of deal volume.
Farm tech investment represented 26% of total agrifood tech funding volume in 2017, reaching $2.6 billion. By AgFunder’s definition, farm tech exclusively captures the companies with technologies in use on farms. The farm tech funding total showed a 32% year-over-year increase, while deal activity actually decreased by 9%. Larger and later stage deals pushed up the investment total.
Notably in on-farm technology, there has been evidence of its startup ecosystem maturing. There are new plateaus in the value of deals. In 2017, half of the top 20 deals exceeded $50 million, whereas in 2016 only two top deals were valued at more than $50 million.
With the major agribusiness firms going through mergers, there was some concern for a slower pace in startup acquisitions. However, three acquisitions illustrated that the ag majors are ready to invest in strategic acquisitions in technology and talent.
- DowDuPont’s acquisition of farm management software startup Granular for $300 million in August. Granular raised just $25 million in two rounds from some high profile investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, and GV (Google Ventures), along with agriculture investor Fall Line Capital.
- John Deere acquired ag robotics startup Blue River Technology for $305 million in September. The deal also provided a good return for investors reaching 4x the valuation of the last round. Investors included Khosla Ventures, as well as ag industry giants Monsanto and Syngenta. The company raised just over $30 million in total since its founding.
- International fertilizer giant Yara acquired nitrogen modeling platform Adapt-N from Agronomic Technology Corp for an undisclosed amount.
As AgFunder said in its report this could be a signal that the large strategic players will have more time, and money, to pursue more exits in 2018.
AgFunder notes a maturing market and larger investment levels are positive developments, but there could be a weakening pipeline ahead. There is a decline in early stage investment. Seed stage funding dollars dropped by 27% in 2017, along with a 28% decline in number of companies funded.
Two trends to watch are: agribusiness marketplaces and which startups are saying they are not targeting acquisition.
AgFunder says agribusiness marketplaces are quickly becoming the category to watch within farm tech as Farmers Business Network (FBN) in the U.S. and Maihuolang in China became some of the best-funded farm tech startups. The category raised $511 million in 2017 representing 77% growth year-over-year. By itself in two rounds FBN raised a total of $150 million.
Indigo Agriculture and Farmers Business Network are two startups that have confirmed they plan to list on a public exchange instead of seeking acquisition as an exit. Indigo Agriculture, the microbial seed coating company with an innovative business model, as it raised $203 million in Series D funding after attracting Dubai’s sovereign wealth fund. The round values Indigo at over $1 billion, taking it to unicorn status, according to AgFunder.