Why VCs Are Devouring Food Startups Investments in food ventures are heating up. Here's what's making investors bite.
The food revolution has a new champion. Venture capitalists are stepping in with billions of dollars focused on agriculture and food ventures that reduce waste and use of chemicals, conserve resources, accelerate distribution and—at least theoretically—improve our health and the health of the planet.
It's a new playing field for venture firms. And startups all along the food chain -- from farmers and tech companies to home cooks -- are reaping huge rewards: $2.06 billion invested in the first half of 2015. That's nearly as much as the $2.36 billion total for 2014, which was two and a half times the figure for 2013, according to AgFunder, a reporting and support service for entrepreneurs in the new food sector launched in 2013.
Cultivian Sandbox of Chicago closed its first food fund for $34 million in 2008, just as the recession hit. "It was tough," says co-founder Andy Ziolkowski about what was a nonexistent food-tech sector at the time. In hindsight, he says, it was perfect timing: Opportunities were, and continue to be, plentiful, and Cultivian, with more than $150 million under management, has invested in food and agriculture ventures such as Advanced Animal Diagnostics, Vestaron and Conservis.