Two Silicon Valley tech veterans are backing a food revolution as climate change and the coronavirus pandemic draw billions of dollars of investment into finding sustainable farming solutions.
Astanor Ventures, a Brussels-based venture capital firm founded by Eric Archambeau and George Coelho, has closed a $325 million fund that will invest exclusively in food, agriculture and ocean technology. The fund will target European and North American startups and entrepreneurs focused on solving problems in food production and curbing climate change, Astanor said Friday.
Agritech startups have attracted record funding this year as investors tap a drive to make agriculture more sustainable. Climate change, a growing population, and most recently the pandemic, have spurred a push for alternative food sources, shorter supply chains and ways to adapt to increasingly unpredictable weather.
“The entire system needs to be fixed,” Archambeau said in an interview. “You need that development in mechanical and biotech innovation to make it happen.”
Archambeau, former chairman of the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, set up the firm with Coelho in 2017. So far, they have invested in more than 20 European and U.S. startups in agriculture and food production. That includes Ynsect, a French insect farmer, and Berlin-based vertical farmer Infarm. Other companies include La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm-to-table trading platform, and Apeel Sciences Inc., a Californian company tackling food waste.
There is an urgent need to overhaul modern agriculture, which is designed to deliver cheap and plentiful food at the expense of quality, resources and the environment, Archambeau said. More people want to eat healthily, while Covid-19 has highlighted the need for more resilient and shorter supply chains, he said.
The venture capital fund — the world’s biggest focused solely on agritech, according to Dealroom data — has attracted money from family offices, endowment funds and an investment arm of Morgan Stanley.
“We are looking for mission-driven, ambitious people,” Archambeau said. “We know there are lots of roadblocks, but we also feel that a new generation of farmers understand the issues. It’s not going to be overnight, but we are patient investors.”
–With assistance from Giles Turner.