As part of a $15 million effort to make agriculture more productive and sustainable, Bayer and DuPont have partnered with ag-tech venture capital firm Finistere Ventures, Cloud Break Advisors and other agriculture industry leaders to launch an ag-tech accelerator fund.
The fund, called Radicle, aims to reduce the time to develop, market and commercialize new technologies that can solve global farming problems. These include technology fields like genomics and plant sciences, seed tech, biologicals for crop protection and regulation, digital ag (application of data and predictive analytics to precision ag), and disruptive or novel farm systems.
Radicle has already secured $6 million in funding commitments from founding members. In addition to seed funding it will provide companies with:
- Expert advisory services and strategic mentorship from a wide network of ag experts and proven entrepreneurs
- Access to key leaders and corporate relationships across a range of Ag focus areas
- Connections with top academic institutions including Texas A&M, University of California, University of Missouri, University of Queensland, and the University of Wisconsin Madison
- Industry collaboration with ag leaders such as Bayer and DuPont Pioneer
- A network of participating public and private research institutes including Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, BSES, CSIRO, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Landcare Research
- Follow-on financing round options from the founding investors and their networks once companies “graduate” from the accelerator
- A service platform with an intense focus on value creation initiatives and exit planning guidance from the start
In a statement announcing the new fund, DuPont Pioneer’s Neal Gutterson, vice president, research & development, said Radicle and its investing approach will help Pioneer’s objective of improving productivity. “DuPont Pioneer continually scouts the innovation frontier for novel ways to improve agricultural productivity and seeks to collaborate with those on the cutting edge of science, even at the earliest stages of technology development,” Gutterson said.
To this end DuPont Pioneer has also collaborated with eight Midwestern universities through their respective soil nutrition management experts to help growers more sustainably maximize crop yields using less fertilizer.
Lux Research analyst Sara Olson told Environmental Leader that the analyst firm has seen an uptick in accelerator and incubator funding for ag technologies.
“Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer — they are all getting involved in various ways,” Olson said. “And we’re seeing an increase in the use of incubators and accelerators rather than just straight VC funding. We think that’s tied to the economic downturn in the ag world, for one, and the fact that most ag-tech needs longer to get off the ground than your conventional VC systems are structured to manage.
Accelerator funds like Radicle that invest money from many sources as opposed to just one investor dilutes the risk to any one firm, Olson explains. “So not only does you million dollars go further, but your risk is less should the company fail.”
Olson recently authored a report that highlights how one ag-tech — robots — is integrating with precision agriculture to help farmers increase yields and minimize natural resource use.