Agtech companies raise record $2bn in first half of year

Companies in the sector have been backed by 280 investors in the first six months of this year, surpassing the total for 2014.

Agtech companies have raised a record $2.06 billion in the first half of 2015 as venture funding continues to pour into the sector, the latest figures from AgFunder show.

And the 280 investors who have committed capital to the sector already outpaces the 271 who backed companies in 2014.

The 228 investments made by these investors in the first half of the year is close to the entire 2014 total of 264 deals which raised $2.36 billion.

Soaring investment reflects the changing dynamics within the sector, according to Finistere Ventures, an agtech focused venture firm. Arama Kukutai, a partner at Finistere, pointed to the increasingly favourable “cost curves of enabling technologies, ranging from genomics to big data”, as playing a big part in the growth of the sector. “The rise of the digital era and the engagement of Silicon Valley have made the sector more visible, enabling it to both grow faster and bring in more entrepreneurs,” Kukutai told Agri Investor earlier this year.

Some of the biggest winners so far this year are precision agtech companies, which have seen investment grow from $267 million in 2014 to $400 million in the first half of the year.

Notable precision ag deals in the first six months of the year include Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners’ backing of California-based irrigational management company Hortau, Osmington and Mitsui’s backing of Canadian data management company Farmers Edge and the large $118 million series C raised by San Fransican satellite imagery company Planet Lab.

And this growth is set to continue, according to a recent report by RobecoSAM, which forecast that the market for precision agriculture would grow to $6 billion in the US by 2022, and at an annual rate globally of 20 percent.

Drone makers also pushed the numbers to record levels, led by Accel Partners’ $75 million investment into Chinese drone developer DJI.

The figures also show a maturing sector, with series A financing volumes already surpassing 2014’s total, with a median size of $4.3 million close to the average deal size in the wider tech sector.

The sector’s maturity can also be seen in the increasing number of generalist tech venture firms backing deals in the sector such as Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and DFJ.