The second generation of the Cibus Funds’ food and agtech vehicles will seek to double the amount of capital raised by the first iteration of the vehicles, founder and chief investment officer Rob Appleby told Agri Investor.
Cibus Fund I, the first of the firm’s flagship line of vehicles, closed on $322 million in 2019, while the firm’s venture capital agtech fund, Cibus Enterprise Fund I, closed on $66 million. The Cibus Funds is a sustainable food and agriculture firm advised by ADM Capital Europe.
“The second series of Cibus Funds have been launched and we’re looking at roughly double the size of the funds,” Appleby said.
The vehicles will follow the same strategy as their predecessors. Cibus Fund I made nine buyout and growth investments in food and agriculture businesses such as UK-headquartered berry producer Hall Hunter Partners, while the Enterprise Fund made 13 late-stage venture investments in the agtech space.
“Now that we’re not a first-time fund, which is a label that is hard to shake off, the acceptance of an extraordinary track record and in sectors that are extremely vibrant at the moment, means that the second fundraising is going a lot better than we anticipated,” Appleby said, who declined to share any performance details about the firm’s first generation vehicles.
“When it comes to investors that have put money into the fund or are putting money into the fund, I would say that geographically there’s a strong interest from North America. There’s a strong interest from institutions more widely for Cibus Fund II and from family offices, impact investors and institutions in Cibus Enterprise Funds II,” added the CIO.
The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association investment board has approved an $80 million commitment to Cibus Fund II and a $20 million commitment to the Enterprise Fund II.
Cibus Enterprise Fund II has already made six investments, while Cibus Fund II’s first investment went into Withcott Seedlings, a producer and supplier of vegetable seedlings to field and glasshouse growers across Eastern Australia.
The firm established a better understanding of the Withcott Seedlings business through its Fund I portfolio company ISO Group – a Dutch indoor farming robotics company – from which Withcott acquired four robots.
“We really liked this business, in part because it had a robust business and one that survived the three-year drought in Australia, had survived labor cost increases and labor availability, which is a problem that is not restricted to Australia – it’s a global problem,” explained Appleby.
“Withcott incorporated these ISO robots and actually dealt with the peak labor stress periods and then also found that they had managed to optimise their production process through the use of these robots quite significantly.
“We felt that with increased mechanisation and robotization of this production facility, we could further improve the cashflow and the operating dynamics of the company by not just looking at the picking, or the repotting, or indeed the grafting, but also the phytosanitary aspects, the packaging and the logistics part of the business through robots.”