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Agriculture tech startup investments double in 2015 to $4.6 billion

Staff writer |
Investments in agriculture technology startups surged to a record $4.6 billion last year, despite a drop in United States farm income and lower profit at farm-affiliated firms.

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The investments were nearly double the $2.36 billion seeded by venture capitalists and others in 2014, according to the annual report from online food and agriculture investment platform AgFunder.

“There’s definitely been a downturn in the broader market, but ultimately the direction of agriculture is going towards a more technologically driven future,” said AgFunder CEO Rob Leclerc.

Just 58 percent of deals were in U.S.-based companies, versus 90 percent in 2014.

Food e-commerce companies, including online grocers and meal delivery services, raised $1.65 billion last year, led by hefty funding rounds by COFCO subsidiary Womai, US-based Blue Apron and Germany’s HelloFresh.

The sector was by far the year’s most active, with 36 percent of total investment, leapfrogging 2014’s top segment, bioenergy, which faced headwinds from weakening oil prices. The e-commerce segment’s growth, however, could be limited by market saturation, said Leclerc.

Drones and robotics investments grew by 237 percent from 2014 and AgFunder pointed to a bright future for the segment as more growers are expected to use crop-scouting drones and various autonomous farm machines for data analysis and precision farming.

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