Editor’s Note: Thomas van den Boezem is program manager at StartLife, a Netherlands-based incubator for agrifood tech startups, cofounded by world-leading agriculture university Wageningen University & Research. StartLife has a portfolio of 200 startups and startup programs across Europe. Here van den Boezem and AgFunderNews editor Louisa Burwood-Taylor write about the developing ecosystem of agrifood tech startups in Europe.AgFunder CEO Rob Leclerc will be sharing more about Europe’s agrifood tech startup scene and more in an exclusive data presentation to attendees of the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in London next month.
Europe has always been a dominant force in the food and agriculture industry. The Netherlands, Germany, and France are all top exporters of agricultural products globally.Europe is home to world-leading knowledge institutes in food and agriculture, such as Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, Rothamsted Research in the UK, as well as agrifood giants like Bayer and Nestlé.Startup activity in food and agriculture innovation is also growing in Europe. In the last three years, investment activity has increased as many support resources for food and agtech startups have emerged, including accelerators, incubators like StartLife and government programs.
In the first half of 2017, investment in European agrifood tech startups represented 21% of global deals, up from 17% in the first half of 2014, when AgFunder records began. And agrifood tech startups in Europe raised $770 million during the period, the second highest ever level for dollar funding levels after the record-breaking first half of 2015 ($1.3bn).The UK is the most active European country for agrifood tech investment, with 21 startups (out of 79) raising funding in H1. Next come France and Germany, where nine startups raised rounds in each country. Ireland and Italy both contributed eight deals during the period, with Holland contributing five and Sweden four. The remaining countries of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland contributed three deals or less.
Where does Europe stand out?Novel ingredients
Europe is home to some large and innovative ingredients companies such as Givaudan, the Swiss company that covers the flavorings and fragrances market, and Döhler, a global provider of technology-based ingredients headquartered in Germany. Both these companies have an excellent track record of collaborating with food and agtech startups.This strength has translated into startup activity as there are several European agrifood tech startups now operating in the novel ingredients space, for both human and animal food.NutriLeads, a StartLife portfolio company, develops proprietary nutritional ingredients with clinically proven health benefits. This year, it raised an undisclosed Series A round to further the development of its lead ingredient, which should support immune function to increase resistance against common infectious diseases.Simris Alg is another promising ingredient startup, cultivating algae as a food ingredient for the B2B market, as well as developing consumer superfood and supplemental products. The company has raised over $11 million for the expansion of its algae farming operations in Sweden. Meanwhile, Seamore Food from the Netherlands has developed pasta and bacon alternatives from seaweed.Europe is also home to a small number of insect farming groups aiming to provide protein replacement ingredients for animal feed, particularly fishmeal. Protix out of the Netherlands raised one of Europe’s largest funding rounds in H1, and the largest ever for an insect farming startup, with a $50 million Series B. Ynsect is farming mealworm to produce a fishmeal placement and raised $15.2 million in a Series B funding to scale up its robotics-enabled insect factory in France. Hexafly is another example of an insect farming startup targeting fishmeal, which raised just over $1 million after taking part in the IndieBio EU accelerator in Ireland where the startup is based.
Europe, and The Netherlands in particular, is a leading player in horticulture production. Earlier this month, National Geographic reported on some of Holland’s mind-boggling horticulture achievements. Its vast, high-tech, automated greenhouses have enabled hyper-efficient horticulture production, making the country the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter measured by value, while drastically lowering the amount of water and fertilizer needed....MUCH MORE