$1bn invested in Irish agrifood tech companies since 2012

Foodtech and agtech start-ups globally raised nearly $20bn last year, new figures show

Some $1 billion (€920 million) has been invested in Irish agrifoodtech companies since 2012 with Ireland being one of only a few countries worldwide to see a rise in deal activity last year.

Foodtech and agtech start-ups globally raised nearly $20 billion (€18.3 billion) in 2019, down nearly 5 per cent on the $20.8 billion (€19.1 billion) secured in 2018, but still a 250 per cent increase over the last five years.

In 2012, just $2.9 billion (€2.6 billion) was secured by foodtech and agtech companies worldwide.

Overall, venture capital investment fell by 16 per cent in 2019 due largely to international trade tensions, Brexit and a weakening Chinese economy, according to figures compiled by Agfunder. The decline in funding last year mainly affected investment to consumer food delivery apps, which fell 56 per cent.

Europe continued to show particularly strong growth with agri-food tech funding rising 94 per cent to $3.3 billion (€3 billion) last year. The UK was the leader in the region and the fourth biggest globally with $1.1 billion (€1 billion) raised across 112 deals in 2019.

Agfunder, which has a database of nearly 30,000 companies, reported 1,859 deals last year, of which 584 transactions did not disclose prices.

Largest deal

Impossible Foods recorded the largest deal overall, raising $300 million (€276 million) last year. Perfect Day, the biotechnology start-up that evolved out of the Cork accelerator RebelBio, was the fourth biggest deal globally. The start-up, which raised $140 million (€129 million) in December, is looking to bring animal-free dairy products to market.

RebelBio, the world's first life sciences accelerator, is run by Sean Sullivan's SOSV, was last year ranked the most active accelerator with 44 investments.

AgFunder’s data shows that US deals accounted for 35 per cent of all activity last year with 653 transactions totalling a combined $8.7 billion (€8 billion). China reported 181 deals worth $3.2 billion (€2.9 billion), while India had 152 deals valued at $1.1 billion (€1 billion).

Irish start-ups in the agrifood tech space are rated highly overseas with companies such as Cainthus making headlines globally.

The sector, which has gained from the State's strong track record in agriculture, has grown substantially in recent years, aided in part from the introduction of Galway-based agritech accelerator programme Yield Lab Europe, which last year announced a €21 million venture capital fund backed by Enterprise Ireland and AIB.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund has also invested heavily in the sector, putting €40 million into two Finistere-managed funds in 2017.