FT Covers Agtech, Features Finistere Partner and Portfolio

Writing for the Financial Times, Emiko Terazono covers the recent growth in Agtech investing. A few highlights from the article.

Discussing the rising of Agtech innovation, the author quotes Finistere portfolio company CEO Matt Barnard.

The single most important reason for this interest is innovation. It is not simply changing agriculture and food production, bringing in more transparency and new products as well as shortening supply chains — it is also offering investors such as SoftBank, Google and sovereign wealth funds a road map they recognise from other industries that have been transformed by technology.This has provided start-ups with a financial foundation to grow their operations, attract executives from a wide range of sectors, including Silicon Valley, and eventually look to float on the public markets. Coupled with the falling cost of available technology — from data processing to artificial intelligence and storage — it is boosting the firepower of these start-ups.

“Two and a half years before Google was founded, the cost of data storage was 100 times greater,” says Matt Barnard, chief executive of Plenty, an indoor farming start-up. “Had it started three or four years earlier, there would have been no business because the cost of data would have been prohibitive.”

Discussing the transformational impact of innovation on traditional companies, the author quotes Finistere partner Spencer Maughan.

Traditionalists say its complex supply chains and stringent regulations make it different from other industries that have been disrupted by technology.

“In Silicon Valley tech you really can have a 20-year-old who wakes up with a dream. Some of them can create entirely new companies because it’s such a green space,” says Brian Loeb, who oversees venture investment at New York-based Continental Grain, once a leading grain trader that now invests in food and commodities companies. “[But] in agriculture, no matter how big any of the innovations are, our view is that they still always have to fit within, it’s still always part of the complex puzzle.”

Others are less sceptical. “Just because [an industry] hasn’t been disrupted does not mean that it won’t be disrupted,” says Spencer Maughan, co-founder of Finistere Ventures, a California-based agritech venture capital firm.

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