An unusually high volume of food tech investment news has kept us on our toes all summer, and we’re not the only ones to notice. Food tech VC firm Finistere Ventures said today that 2020 so far as been an “extraordinary” investment time for both food tech and agtech, with much of that investment happening smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. More importantly and according to the firm’s latest findings, much of the capital is actually a direct reaction to the pandemic. Finistere, whose investment portfolio includes Memphis Meats, CropX, and Good Eggs, released the findings today in collaboration with PitchBook Data, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
For the first two quarters of 2020, total agtech investment reached $2.2 billion compared to the $2.7 billion raised for the entirety of 2019. While slightly lower, food tech investment reached $4.8 billion during the first two quarters of 2020 compared to $7 billion for all of 2019, and that number will continue to rise rapidly (see below).
Large investments, what Finistere calls “mega rounds” of more than $100 million have continued and encompassed all of the top 10 food tech investments and 50 percent of the top agtech investments.
Other notable points, as quoted directly from the report, include:
- Investors are helping startups push their funding needs outside the “Covid zone” and build more evidence of their value as future growth investors will be looking for signals of scalability.
- Rounds led by new investors have been a lesser part of the 2020 total, which is likely to continue while capital managers take stock of the market conditions.
- While early-stage Agtech has seen a decrease in pre-money valuations, valuations for late-stage financings continued to increase in 2020 despite the current pandemic. Valuations will be under pressure looking forward and will likely require a year or more for the true impact of Covid to manifest in this metric.
Food tech, in particular, has a promising outlook right now, thanks in no small part to consumers’ collective behavioral shift to eating more at home. “It is our view that there will be lasting and persistent changes to consumer behavior in at-home consumption, and interesting to note this is the first year since 1994 that restaurant share of food consumption dropped versus in-home,” the report stated.
Other activity around the food tech sector supports this idea. Online grocery sales have experienced record highs since the start of the pandemic. Many companies, from plant-based meat producers to snack brands, have launched direct-to-consumer channels in response to this shift away from public spaces and into the consumer home. And with the state of the restaurant industry still very much in flux, these behaviors aren’t likely to change anytime soon.
Finistere noted that for food tech, retaining customers and growing margins will be important to future funding rounds.
Agtech will have a bit more of an uphill climb. The report states that agtech companies “are likely to face a turbulent outlook for 2021,” citing farming margins, labor costs, trade conflicts, and pressure to develop more sustainable farming methods as factors. The industry should expect much consolidation in the future.