Food and farming are attracting celebrity investment including from Meghan Markle, Oprah and Katy Perry to name a few
While food and farming are increasingly in the limelight in part driven by the pandemic. COVID-19 has catapulted food and farming to the forefront of the minds of ordinary folks who have had first hand experiences related to food shortage, food supply and food safety surfaced.
Now the sector has piqued the interest of investors too including celebrities.
In 2020 there were a steady stream of investments in a sector that has traditionally struggled to attract investors especially venture capitalists who seek fast returns.
Agtech has seen robust investment in recent years. Growers are increasingly seeking solutions for challenges including a severe labor shortage and water and land management issues, and open to adopting innovations that increase yield and efficiency.
A growing number of investors are also banking on companies that support sustainability and promote conservation. In 2020, venture capitalists invested $4 billion in startups in the agtech space, according to Crunchbase a research company. This is up significantly from the $2.8 billion that venture capital investors placed in agtech startups across the globe in 2019.
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Little surprise that public figures are jumping on the bandwagon too.
“Celebrities have access to tech thought leaders and see what they are excited about and want to be in on the new trend,” says Jaleh Daie an entrepreneur and seed investor with a focus on agtech. Daie observes that the agrifoodtech sector is climbing and has yet to see its peak.
Pam Marrone, the founder of Marrone Bio Innovations and investor in agtech start-ups, notes: “More than ever, consumers care about how their food is produced and processed. Celebrities are tuned into this trend and see that they can help shift us along to a more transparent and sustainable food system that reduces food waste and improves people’s health.”
Below are a few high profile investments by household personalities in 2020:
Meghan Markle invested in in Clevr Brands a Santa Barbara, California-based company that specializes in instant oat milk latte. The company, led by CEO and founder Hannah Mendoza, asserts that its products are green friendly and ethically sourced.
Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry invested in Apeel Sciences a California-based foodtech company that produces a coasting for fruit that is edible. Among her various properties, Winfrey also owns and lives on a farm.
Perry, Serena Williams and Jay-Z invested in Impossible Foods a company in Redwood City, California that develops plant-based substitutes in lieu of meat.
Finally, tech magnates Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft and Eric Schmidt the former CEO of Google have been expanding their investment in agtech. In 2020 Microsoft announced that it had launched Azure, a suite of tch tools and resources to help agtech start-ups in India. The Schmidt Family Foundation made food and agriculture one of the four areas of investment.
Coming in 2021
Marrone forecasts that agtech and foodtech will continue gaining momentum in 2021 when it comes to interest and investment. Consumers are becoming more focused on eating healthier and interested in where their food comes from. On a global scale there is a growing interest in food supply chain transparency through blockchain technology.
Vertical farms and indoor agriculture, plant based protein substitutes and companies tackling food waste attract significant attention.
“There is a burgeoning startup ecosystem of B2B agbio and agtech companies getting funded that are focusing on tackling the problems and inefficiencies of chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” Marrone says.