Companies with unique visions of how to re-invent the food system and advocating various solutions to the sustainability challenges we face featured heavily in last month’s funding rounds.
Novameat, which made the first 3D printed plant-based ‘steak’ in 2018, secured an undisclosed level of funding from New Crop Capital. This VC specialises in companies developing meat, dairy, egg and seafood analogues with plant-based ingredients. Its portfolio companies include the likes of Beyond Meat and Good Catch.
Novameat said it has a new technology that can replicate the texture and appearance of fibrous meats like fish and chicken. The fresh funding will be used to accelerate its development in these areas.
Elsewhere, a swathe of start-ups that are developing technologies to improve agricultural efficiency or develop new growth models attracted investor interest, including Fieldin and Pure Harvest.
Scottish indoor ag-tech company Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), raised a further £1.6m from Ospraie Ag Science and Agfunder in the second and final close of its Series A round. This brings IGS's total Series A fundraise to £7m.
Announcing the news, IGS said the capital injection was its ‘first step’ towards building a global platform in the indoor ag-tech market and the group will establish global sales operations. The company, which has developed modular and scalable indoor farming technology that it then sells to producers, said the first deployments of its systems are expected in 2020.
Chief executive David Farquhar said the group’s technology can contribute towards the development of a more sustainable food system. “The pressures of climate change are real and clear and our technology and systems have the ability to play a part in addressing how we produce and supply food sustainably and productively all over the world.”
Meanwhile, Ocado continued to grow its investment in vertical farming group Infinite Acres. The UK retailer has previously said it envisions a future where produce grown in vertical farms will be delivered to the consumer 'within an hour' of harvest.
“We believe that our investments today in vertical farming will allow us to address fundamental consumer concerns on freshness and sustainability and build on new technologies that will revolutionise the way customers access fresh produce.
“Our hope ultimately is to co-locate vertical farms within or next to our CFCs [Customer Fulfilment Centres] and Ocado Zoom’s micro-fulfilment centres so that we can offer the very freshest and most sustainable produce that could be delivered to a customer’s kitchen within an hour of it being picked.” - Ocado CEO Tim Steiner
Investment round-up: September
EPC services for automated indoor farms
Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS)
Developer of automated vertical farming solutions
Ospraie Ag Science, AgFunder
AI-based food innovation solutions for restaurants
Tel Aviv, Israel
Develops technology for farm data capture and predicting yields
AgVenture, Hubei Forbon Technology
Online platform to order ready to serve plant based meals
Developer of online marketplaces for field crops and livestock animals
Direct sale and distribution of local food
Five Seasons Ventures, INDACO
Application-based job board for agriculture-industry
Integrated business for soil-less cultivation and supply of produce
Shorooq Investments, MBRIF
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Plant-based 3D printed meat alternatives
New Crop Capital
Solution provider to increase efficiency & reduce losses in the harvesting of farm production
Fresno, USA / Yokneam Illit, Israel
Big bet #1: Simple Feast delivers with sustainable meal kits
Simple Feast was founded in 2014 with a vision to enable Danes to eat more food at home while promoting sustainable plant-based diets.
The company is part of the growing number of meal kit supplies but separates itself from the competition by being plant-based and sustainable.
The recipe box provider delivers ingredients for three plant-based meals per week, all of which it says consumers should be able to prepare within 10 minutes. Its ambition is to bring plant flavours centre plate and the company believes that by providing ‘inspiring and delightful taste experiences’ it can help people develop more sustainable and healthier eating habits.
“The future of food belongs to plants and as a company, we believe we have a big role to play in this future. Simple Feast has a clear mission: we want the help our customers and others to live more sustainably. It’s clear to us, that our large consumption of meat are having a massive impact on climate changes, and we want to accelerate the move towards a more plantbased future,” Jakob Jønck, CEO, explained.
The group raised $35m (€31.7m) in a Series B funding round in last month, according to Tracxn data. The round was backed by 14W, Balderton Capital, Sweet Capital and Byfounders.
Big bet #2: Fieldin expanding precision ag tech
Fieldin, which has developed a farm management platform that helps specialty crop growers optimise their field operations, has secured $12m (€10.9m) in financing to fuel company growth and expand its precision agriculture technology.
The Series A investment was led by Zeev Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based venture fund. Cavallo Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wilbur-Ellis, AgFunder and existing investors Germin8 Ventures, Gal Ventures and Terra Venture Partners also participated in the round.
Founded in 2013, Fieldin’s farm management platform enables visibility across an operation’s range of field data in a single dashboard. This ‘smart farm control centre’ provides managers with actionable data that improves planning, manages risk and maximises production across all operations and activities.
“With the backing and experience of some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley and commercial agriculture, this investment will allow us to put the pedal to the metal and ramp up our innovation and continue to lead the market in both adoption and results,” said Fieldin CEO and Co-Founder Boaz Bachar.
“This will allow us to get our data-driven tools in the hands of more growers and stakeholders throughout the supply chain, which will benefit everyone from the boots on the ground to the consumer, and all of the various partners they work with along the way. We look forward to seeing just how far we can take our technology.”
Big bet #3: Cortilia skips the middle man
Online agricultural marketplace Cortilia connects farmers directly to consumers. The Italian start-up closed a funding round of $9.37m (€8.5m) in September, which was led by Five Seasons Ventures and Indaco. P101, Boox, Primomiglio and dPixel also participated.
Cortilia is an online farmers market that delivers fresh products, including fruit, vegetables, cheeses, fish, meat and ready meals, within 24 hours of ordering. It has a close relationship with its ‘carefully selected’ local producers.
The company says that a ‘massive application’ of digital and logistics technologies are its ‘secret for delivering freshness, on time’.
By joining consumers and producers, Cortilia aims to create a community based on its brand values of authenticity and sustainability.
In addition to its online operations, it also operates a physical point of sale in Turin. This, according to Cortilia, is the ‘first step’ towards a multi-channel strategy.
Currently, the business delivers more than 1800 SKUs from 1,500 suppliers to over 10,000 households living in 14 highly populated cities in Northern Italy.
Five Seasons co-founder Ivan Farneti said that Cortilia's model is 'compelling' and strong growth and retention measurements suggest the model resonates with Italian consumers.
"The product is indeed unique: none of the 2000 products found on Cortilia can be found at Carrefour or Esselunga or Coop, simply because the ~200 farmers and artisans would be deemed too small or difficult for the GDO to manage. Yet, Cortilia designed tools and processes to make these suppliers 'retail ready', make them scalable from stronger process and quality controls, to the promotion of their story and values behind each product. This know-how and technology are unique assets and can be further developed with adequate investment.
"Cortilia showed the ability to build a community around its brand values of authenticity and sustainability thanks to honest storytelling on the website and social media channels, but also through physical events, opening up further potential upside in the possible development of own branded products, as well as the development of a multichannel strategy."