Field Notes: Ospraie wants women in ag; Active Impact hits first close; EU nature law set for another key vote

Ospraie wants more women in ag, Active Impact hits first close, EU nature law set for another key vote, global beef trends continue to diverge and more. Welcome to Field Notes, the start-of-the-week briefing for our valued subscribers only.

First look

Women in ag science

Ospraie targets women for ag

Venture capital investor Ospraie Ag Science is looking for ways to facilitate one of the demographic changes in agriculture which the firm believes can lead to “very, very attractive” investment opportunities: the increasing participation of women.

“We fundamentally believe in meritocracy and the way you make that work is, you have a much bigger pool of candidates from which to solicit ideas and proposals,” said senior partner Carl Casale. “We just have to fill the pipe. We have to convince people that’s this is a great place to have a career, and it is.”

Casale sighted enrolment figures at Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, which is now two-thirds women, with a similar story playing out at Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Sciences. Meanwhile, across the US, women have surpassed men in agricultural and natural science degrees.

One of the factors leading to this shift is the evolving nature of what it means to work a farm, which is moving away from being one dominated by labor-intensive work, to one in which technical skills and knowledge are equally important to a successful farm operation.

“They don’t have to go move anything. They just have to understand how to program an irrigation controller and monitor the water probes in the field. It’s brains over brawn now and that’s where this industry is going, very, very quickly,” said Casale.

Despite the early positive signs and growing number of women in senior roles with the ag value chain, Ospraie estimates that less than 10 percent of startup founders that have approached the firm for funding have been founded by women.

Read the full story here.

They said it

“It is clear there is money in the system and demand outstrips supply. Buyers are searching, watching and waiting, ready to jump on an opportunity. However, they are more cautious and increasingly selective”

Goldcrest partner Jon Lambert discusses the changing dynamics in the UK forestry sector that has led to commercial forestry prices falling by 10-20 percent.

Fund watch

Active Impact Investments takes C$70m

Canadian climate-focused venture capital fund manager Active Impact Investments raised more than C$70 million ($51 million; €47 million) for its third fund.

The Vancouver-based firm said new investors in the vehicle include co-anchor Northleaf Capital Partners through its Canadian venture capital strategy, Co-operators’ Corporate Venture Capital Fund and Deloitte Ventures.

It has also secured re-ups from existing investors Fondaction and the University of Victoria for the fund, which has a target of C$120 million.

AII was founded in 2018 and focuses on early-stage investments in North American climate tech start-ups.

The firm said it has invested in 31 companies to date, all of which are still operating, and has exited three of those via acquisitions, with a fourth exit pending.

Its latest fund will continue its strategy of investing in those types of companies, with the aim of making a further 20 investments. In particular, it is searching for investments in the sustainable food and water sectors, alongside other target sectors including the circular economy, clean energy and transportation, infrastructure and carbon solutions.

Read the full story here.

Natural capital

EU Nature Restoration Law braces for impact

Backers of the EU’s flagship environmental legislation, the Nature Restoration Law, are bracing themselves for another vote on November 29 at the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).

Negotiators from the European Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on the law on November 9, with the vote later this week expected to deliver a positive outcome which will see it adopted by Parliament and Council, after which it will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.

The legislation survived by the skins of its teeth in a June 15 vote that delivered a result where the 88-member ENVI committee voted 44 in favor and 44 against – the tie meant the proposal to dismiss was rejected.

Under the new law, EU countries will have to restore at least 30 percent of habitat areas in poor condition by 2030, 60 percent by 2040 and 90 percent by 2050.

The law has been vocally backed by more than 100 companies from multiple industries including Coca Cola, Cemex, Ikea and Legal & General, among others.


Diverging global beef trends

The latest edition of Rabobank’s Global Beef Quarterly has found that global beef markets have continued a divergent trend: high prices and contracting production in the US, and low prices and increasing production in the southern hemisphere.

The situation in the US comes after a prolonged period of herd liquidation, that will likely lead to increased imports and a fall in exports – which could become even more pronounced if weather conditions improve in the country. Meanwhile, in Australia, an expansionary cycle in the beef cattle herd couple with the onset of drier conditions and the liquidation of some surplus stock will see production rise. Production in Brazil is also set to increase.

This will effectively cancel itself out, as Rabobank senior analyst – animal protein Angus Gidley-Baird said: “The volume balance for the major beef producing and consuming regions of the world (that we track) will remain relatively constant in 2024.”

It does all mean that trade patterns will need to shift, though, with lower exports from the US shifting to higher exports from Australia, Brazil and Mexico. “We expect Brazil to set a new production record in 2024, with growth of 1-2 percent year-on-year. The increase in production will support what we expect to be a 2-3 percent increase in export volumes,” Gidley-Baird said.


Gunn closes two deal and makes hire

Gunn Agri Partners, the Sydney-headquartered farmland asset manager, has made the first investments through its Wilga Farming platform, a vehicle established earlier this year with backing from Canadian investor Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The platform has acquired two assets. The first is Burmah, which has been bought from Macquarie Asset Management’s Paraway Pastoral Company and aggregated to Wilga’s existing seed asset The Glen to form a 6,600ha aggregation.

The second is the larger Nortongong aggregation, a collection of properties covering 8,500ha in the central west of New South Wales that Gunn Agri Partners said offers “significant scope for land use transformation.”

In addition to the investments, Gunn Agri confirmed it has appointed Sean O’Reilly, former CEO of Roc Partners’ Ulupna Pastoral Company and a former director at Macquarie, to the role of managing director. He will share leadership duties at Gunn Agri with co-founders Daniel Hough and Bradley Wheaton.

Read the full story here.


Astanor’s appointment

Thomas Nagy, former director of the Novo Nordisk Foundation and founder of the BioInnovation Institute, has joined Belgium-based agrifood tech impact investor Astanor Ventures as an operational partner.

The move comes two months after Astanor closed its second fund on €360 million. The fund will invest in early-stage agrifood companies pursuing social and environmental causes.

Nagy spent nearly three decades in leadership positions within the biotech sector, working across operations, management and business development at the Novo Group.

At Astanor, he will work across both pre-investment assessments and post-investment portfolio operational support.

Nagy said he was excited to contribute his skills to Astanor’s mission. “Together, we can make a meaningful difference in shaping the future of sustainable food production and global supply chains,” he said.

Read the full story here.

RedSea’s new VP

Agtech firm RedSea, backed by investors including AppHarvest, Bonaventure Capital and Global Ventures, has promoted Bruno De Oliveira to become its new VP East Africa and Egypt, moving from his previous role as chief agricultural officer.

RedSea spun out from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in 2018 and produces technology that aims to advance commercial agriculture in hot climates. The firm said De Oliveira’s appointment had been made in response to increased customer demand from East Africa and Egypt.

The firm added he would help to “fast-track RedSea’s ongoing global expansion,” shortly after the recent opening of its innovation and data hub, the Centre for Agriculture Climate Technology for Ultimate Sustainability.

Advisors in Adelaide

Australian agribusiness advisers LAWD and Colliers have made appointments in their South Australian teams.

LAWD announced earlier in November that it had appointed Stuart McDonald as senior director of valuations, the first step in establishing a strong presence for the firm in the South Australian market. This follows a string of appointments and new office openings across most Australian regions since it was founded in 2020.

More recently, Colliers Agribusiness said it had appointed Will Sumner as executive, transaction services in its South Australian team, following two years at Knight Frank where he worked across a range of assets from small-scale cropping and grazing farms to large-scale horticultural and viticultural properties.

VC fundraising

Matsmart-Motatos, a Swedish food waste reduction ecommerce company, raised a €40 million growth capital funding round led by Circularity Capital with participation from Northzone, SevenVentures and existing investors.

RED Horticulture, a French LED light business for indoor agriculture, raised a €17 million Series A led by the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund, Demeter IM and Unigrains, with participation from BPI, BNP Paribas, CIC, Crédit Agricole, Societe Generale.

Solar Foods, a Finnish alternative protein company, has raised an €8 million funding round led by Springvest Oyj.

Le Fourgon, a French start-up that facilities the reuse of bottles and other food packaging products, has completed a €10 million Series A funding round backed by Id4, Teampact, La Poste Ventures and angel investors.

TômTex, a New York-based biomaterials company that uses seafood shells and mushrooms to make clothing materials, raised a $2.25 million seed round led by Happiness Capital, with participation from SOSV, Parley for the Oceans and MIH Capital.

Also in the news…

Populism in Italy scores a blow against cultured meat ‘Anti-scientific and anti-Italian’ cultured meat was prohibited from being sold by lawmakers in Italy, a rare setback for what has seemed to be a steady rise in interest in the sector (Agri Investor).

MidEuropa beefed up digitalization and logistics to position Romanian supermarket chain for sale In October, MidEuropa announced it is selling Profi to Ahold Delhaize (PE Hub Europe).

Indian farmers rack up carbon credits Indigo Agriculture JV Grow Indigo is aiding Indian farmers in their quest to tap the voluntary carbon market (Philenews).

General Mills acquires Fera Pets and launches Growth Fund The move is the food giant’s first in the pet supplement category and will be managed by its VC arm, Gold Medal Ventures (General Mills).

New owner puts Gilgal on regen ag path Palgrove has sold Gilgal Station to a German investor who has engaged SLM Partners JV Agri Carbon Investments to run the prized Cootamundra property as a regenerative operation (Grain Central).

Today’s letter was prepared by Binyamin Ali, Chris Janiec and Daniel Kemp.