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Bioenterprise to invest C$4.84m in agtech companies

The money comes from the government through FedDev Ontario, one of six regional development agencies set up to service local industries in Canada.

An agtech accelerator for early-stage companies has been given a mandate to channel C$4.84 million ($3.34 million; €3.04 million) of Canadian government money in start-ups, and small-and medium-sized enterprises in southern Ontario.

Bioenterprise is one of the few accelerators also licensed as an exempt market dealer in Canada, meaning the company can act as a dealer for any securities, including investment funds.

The money comes from the government through FedDev Ontario, one of six regional development agencies set up to service local industries in Canada.

“Applicants will be selected to receive the maximum investment of C$30,000, but matching privately invested funds are required,” Bioenterprise Corporation marketing manager Jennifer Kalanda told Agri Investor.

“If it is working on agricultural technology and has unique agricultural or agri-food innovations, they can apply. We work within a broad scope of agri technology sub-sectors,” said Kandala.

Companies must be able to demonstrate an indirect or direct benefit to local or provincial agricultural communities anywhere along the agricultural value chain. “We would also like to see if they have the potential to address the Canadian or North American export market,” she added.

The accelerator’s chief executive Dave Smardon followed Bioenterprise Corporation’s establishment in 2002 with agtech-focused venture capital firm Bioenterprise Capital Ventures in 2010. The accelerator also shares board member Joseph Regan with the associated VC.

Kalanda did not confirm whether the Bioenterprise Corporation had previously acted as an investment vehicle for private funds, saying its principal role was still as an accelerator. She said it was the second time they had worked with government money.

She said agtech was becoming increasingly important to the Canadian government. “Quite a bit of money was previously directed to tech in general, but the importance of agriculture technology seems to be growing,” said Kandala.

World governments are showing an increased interest in supporting the agtech sector. Earlier this year, the Italian government invested €21 million in crop resistance biotech research and in 2014, the UK government committed £5 million ($7.08 million; €6.45 million) to universities and companies focused on agricultural innovation through its central £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst fund. The UK was the fourth most popular country in attracting agtech investment by volume in 2015, according to an AgFunder report published earlier this year.