Ag Innovation Showcase: Investment community wakes up to agriculture
What are the unique challenges for agricultural start-ups seeking investment?Show transcript
The Ag Innovation Showcase brings together innovators and investors from across the agricultural industries; so what are the unique challenges for start-ups in this space? Registration is now open for the Ag Innovation Showcase 2017: visit www.agshowcase.com.
Lisa Dyson: I think for a start-up, scaling is really the crucial issue. So I’m from Silicon Valley, where there’s lots of IT and app start-ups, and so this is quite different in terms of what’s required to take new food products, food ingredients, or even ingredients for everyday consumer products to market.
And so it’s nice to be in a group of investors that are familiar with the challenges, and that have companies in their portfolios that they’re also bringing to market.
Carlo Montemagno: Everybody wants to invest at a time when you have a product, you’ve taken all the bugs out, and you’re ready to go to market. There is a real challenge in getting a company started – but more of a challenge is after you get the company started, to get the resources necessary to support the development of a growing concern. That means you have the production scale so you can deliver to market. You have a salesforce so you can deliver the product. You have technical people who can handle the warranty issues. And at the same time you continue development to make your next gen project. And this has to happen before you start getting the sales to support the whole enterprise – which I think is one of the biggest challenges between new startup companies and their transition to multi-billion dollar enterprises.
Alec Anderson: There tends to be a disparity in size between the companies we talk to and ourselves, and that power balance can be quite difficult to manage. So it’s interesting to see a different take on things here in America. I think America’s a different culture from the UK in terms of investment – certainly into agriculture. They understand the fundamental nature of the business we’re in.
Rohit Shukla: Well I think the challenge is a challenge that they both face. From a perspective of investors, there are classes that they invest in. Those things are changing under their feet. So they’ve got to now become both highly educated about the prospects, and very attentive to trends. And understand that the combination of the two is what will give them the opportunity to invest well. The return may certainly not be what they’ve been used to in the past, in the duration that they’ve been used to.
Darryn Keiller: The investment community is still waking up. I mean, AgFunder has shown there’s been $4.5bn invested in agtech last year, but a lot of that is focused on field production and biologicals. Great things to invest in, but what we would like to see is more investment coming in to the technology – the software, the data, the analytics. Things that are really going to help move things along, and disrupt the way that things work.
Rohit Shukla: And from the innovators’ perspective, it’s the same issue, which is: things are changing. Their own assumptions about the science that they’re trying to propel forward need to change. Constantly. And they need to become highly efficient at being able to organise themselves to respond to those things. So in effect, it’s the same challenge from both sides.