Sandbox and Cultivian Team Up on $150M AgTech Fund

A team of investment-and food-industry veterans has announced the launch of a new venture fund that will focus on pure-play food and agriculture technology, an area that they believe has been neglected by investors, reports Crain’s Chicago Business.

The fund will be co-led by Sandbox Industries—a Chicago-based venture capital firm and incubator founded by former Monsanto executives Bob Shapiro, Nick Rosa and Steve Engelberg—and Carmel, Indiana-based Cultivian Ventures, an agricultural-technology-focused venture capital firm which launched a $34 million food and agriculture fund in 2008.

The Cultivian Sandbox Food and Agriculture Fund II had raised $70 million by the time its first round closed on May 31, and its directors expect to see it grow to around $150 million, says Crain’s.

Sandbox managing director Matt Downs said the team decided to launch the fund due to their sense that a number of major themes in the food industry are not being properly captured by investors, like population growth and diets that are tilting toward higher meat consumption. These trends require farmers to find ways to get the most out of every crop yield and every animal.

“[The agriculture industry] is a large system that needs change and innovation,” the Crain’s article quoted Downs as saying. He added that the fund’s managers will accordingly focus on “technologies that are enhancing yield from a crop perspective and improving the health of animals,” and said the fund will likely take a close look at technology related to food safety, food security, and aqua-culture.

Ron Meeusen, a Cultivian co-founder and former head of R&D at Dow AgroSciences, echoed the sentiment, adding that the approximately $250 billion food industry has been largely ignored for fairly arbitrary reasons, like the glaring geographical one: “Venture grew up on the coasts, and agriculture tends to be more of a heartland activity,” he pointed out in the article. “It’s an underexploited sector.”

To read the full Crain’s Chicago Business article cited in this story, click here


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