Investment in Early-Stage Agricultural Companies is Springing to Life

Andrew Pollack reported in today’s New York Times that, “Compared with medicine, where small companies often lead in turning cutting-edge science into new drugs, agriculture has never had much start-up activity. Agricultural biotechnology, for instance, has been dominated by six giant seed and chemical companies, including Monsanto and DuPont.

But new technologies are opening up new opportunities, and investment in early-stage agricultural companies is springing to life.

“One sign of that is the announcement being made Thursday of a new ‘accelerator‘ to assist fledgling agriculture companies. Its backers include two big agrochemical and seed companies, Bayer and Syngenta, and some venture capital firms that typically focus on pharmaceuticals, not farms.”

Mr. Pollack indicated that, “Some 499 agricultural technology companies attracted $4.6 billion in investments last year, nearly double the $2.36 billion in 2014 and way up from about $500 million in 2012, according to AgFunder, an organization that helps connect investors with agricultural companies.”

“There is also a huge effort now to apply electronic technology to the farm, including sensors, robots and drones, and big-data approaches to advise farmers what crops to plant on each small parcel of their land and how much water and fertilizer to apply to each spot,” the Times article said.

Today’s article added that, “The AgTech Accelerator will be based in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, where Bayer and Syngenta have their main United States crop research operations. New start-ups will be able to work in the accelerator’s building and take advantage of its management.

“The accelerator is starting with $11.5 million, but that will be increased later this year, [John Dombrosky, the chief executive of the new AgTech Accelerator organization] said. Besides Bayer and Syngenta, investors include Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, Harris & Harris Group, Hatteras BioCapital, Mountain Group Capital and Pappas Capital.”

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