Field Notes: Temasek and LeapFrog’s $500m alliance hunts agtech; Singapore gets a carbon registry; UK’s alt-proteins scene needs £390m by 2030

Temasek and LeapFrog’s $500 million impact alliance hunts agtech; Singapore gets a carbon registry; US and EU beef prices rise amid falls elsewhere; and the UK’s alt-proteins scene needs £390 million ($495 million; €455 million) in public funds by 2030. Welcome to Field Notes, the start-of-the-week briefing for our valued subscribers only.

First look

Temasek and LeapFrog hunt agtech
Temasek and LeapFrog Investments signed a landmark $500 million agreement in March 2021 that was notable not only due to its size, but because of the nature of the commitment from the Singaporean LP.

The state investor committed to anchoring multiple future funds launched by the impact GP, as well as taking a minority stake in the firm and a non-executive seat on the management board.

Given LeapFrog’s long-standing focus on healthcare and financial services, there will likely have been limited interest in the partnership from food and ag stakeholders, but that changed in 2022 when LeapFrog launched a climate strategy and hired Nakul Zaveri as partner and global co-head of the climate investing team.

With regard to the food and ag subsectors into which some of Temasek’s $500 million commitment could be put to work, Zaveri told Agri Investor that potential targets include food traceability, smart seeds and water re-use.

A big part of the partnership’s focus is geared towards putting affordable agtech solutions in the hands of farmers in large, inefficient agricultural sectors such as India, which offer significant opportunities to create state-level leaps forward in innovation.

Zaveri says collaboration on best practice and agtech use between the emerging markets LeapFrog focuses on, such as Asian and African countries, is another significant focus area.

Read the full article here.

They said it

“Our job is to not become just a software company that’s owned by an ag company. We want to be an independent ag software company ourselves”

Bushel chief executive Jake Joraanstad sets out the farm management software company’s ambitions following a $26 million funding round


Singapore gets a carbon credit standard setter
A new carbon credit standard organisation and registry launched in Singapore on August 29.

The Asia Carbon Institute will develop standards for credits generated from technology-based solutions such as direct air capture and renewable energy; urban-based solutions such as waste disposal and building energy efficiency; and nature-based solutions such as forestry and land use.

The registry is currently in talks with its first cohort of project developers and will compete with the likes of Verra, American Carbon Registry and the Climate Action Reserve to develop a rules-based framework for generating carbon credits.

The launch of the ACI adds another string to Singapore’s carbon trading bow following the launch of the Climate Impact X in June – a carbon exchange that traded 12,000 tonnes of emissions on its first day of trading.

The city state has ambitions of becoming the dominant emissions trading hub in Asia.


US and EU beef gets more pricey
The fortunes of beef producers in the US and Europe are diverging from their counterparts in the rest of the world, says research from Rabobank.

The bank’s Q3 global beef report found declining supply and strong consumer demand has driven prices higher in the US, while increasing supply and softening demand elsewhere led to a fall in prices.

Rabobank said that compared with 12 months ago, US cattle prices have increased almost 30 percent, while Australian cattle prices have dropped by more than 30 percent, representing the largest divergence recorded by the bank in the last 10 years.

“In a number of regions, particularly in Asian countries, beef purchases made through 2022 and into 2023 in anticipation of recovery from covid have not been consumed,” said Rabobank.

“These are now part of growing stock levels that also include other proteins. Softer consumer demand is making it harder to move these volumes through the system. An added challenge is that global beef prices have dropped through this period and some of these stocks would have been purchased when prices were higher.”

The report also highlights that considerations around beef and sustainability are expanding to include emerging regulatory frameworks such as the UN’s Biodiversity Convention, the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures and the EU regulations on deforestation-free supply chains.

Rabobank predicts the same logic that has driven many beef producers to adopt public targets on greenhouse gas emissions will soon encourage more action and communication on cattle grazing’s positive contributions in the context of biodiversity.

“Understanding the current impacts of beef supply chains on nature and biodiversity will provide a baseline against which future changes in practices – and their positive impacts – can be measured and reported,” they wrote.

“Better understanding can lead to shared actions to protect and enhance nature.”

Alternative proteins

UK needs to find £390m for alt-proteins by 2030  
Non-profit think tank The Good Food Institute has called on the British government to invest between £245 million ($311 million; €286 million) to £390 million in sustainable protein research and development between 2025-30, to keep pace with innovation in the industry.UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the main public funding agency for investing in sustainable protein R&D. Since 2012, the UK has invested at least £43 million in R&D specifically for plant-based, fermentation and cultivated meat, seafood, eggs and dairy.Of this funding, almost two-thirds (65 percent) was allocated between January 2022 and May 2023, suggesting the UK is beginning to seize the opportunity.

Cultivated meat has received the largest proportion of funding (£20 million), largely due to the creation of a new cellular agriculture manufacturing research hub (£12 million). Meanwhile, plant-based foods and precision fermentation have been more neglected.

The GFI says it is uncertain whether the UK will develop a strong sustainable protein manufacturing base, but the economic benefits of doing so could be significant. Analysis from the Green Alliance indicates that up to 25,000 jobs could be created in the UK by 2035, with a £6.4 billion boost to the economy.

A critical bottleneck is the lack of pilot infrastructure, particularly for fermentation and cultivated meat, designed to help grow sustainable protein companies from the lab to market.

Read the full report here.


Bundaberg Sugar sweet talks buyers
Bundaberg Sugar, one of Australia’s leading sugar producers, which is owned by Belgium’s Finasucre, is seeking a buyer, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review.

Finasucre, which has controlled the business for more than 20 years, has engaged Lazard Australia and Kidder Williams in its search, with the firm expected to fetch around A$600 million ($390 million; €359 million).

Bundaberg Sugar owns a significant portfolio of land and water – roughly 13,000ha of productive agricultural land and 38,000ML of water entitlements – in the Bundaberg region of Queensland. The firm is the largest sugar cane grower in Australia and is a fully integrated business with growing, milling and refining operations.

The parties hope to get a deal agreed before the end of calendar year 2023.

Accolade sells Arras
Accolade Wines, the major Australian wine producer owned by The Carlyle Group, has agreed a sale of its House of Arras brand – several months after the firm was rumoured to be seeking a buyer for it.

The firm has agreed to sell the House of Arras brand, 24ha of vineyards, inventory, and the Bay of Fires winery and cellar door at Pipers River in Tasmania to family-owned wine producer Handpicked Wines.

As part of the deal, Accolade has entered into a long-term agreement to continue producing and bottling House of Arras wines under contract with Handpicked. The firm will also retain ownership of its other premium Tasmanian brands, Eddystone Point and Bay of Fires, with Handpicked also contracted to produce them at the same site.

The deal is the latest in a strategic review at Accolade, with Carlyle engaging Rothschild & Co earlier this year to examine refinancing options for its large debt pile. The Australian Financial Review reported in August that US firm Platinum Equity was considering a bid for the firm, but no further detail has emerged.

VC fundraising

Zepto, an Indian grocery delivery company, raised $200 million in a Series E funding round led by StepStone Group, with participation from Goodwater Capital, Glade Brook Capital, Lachy Groom and Nexus Venture Partners.

CH4 Global, a US-based climate tech company, raised $29 million in a Series B funding round led by DCVC, DCVC Bio, and Cleveland Avenue. The company produces a feed additive for cattle that uses seaweed to reduce enteric methane emissions by up to 90 percent.

Praso, a Brazilian food purchasing platform for small retailers, raised $9.3 million in a Series A funding round co-led by Valor Capital Group and NFX, with participation from Base Partners, Formus Capital, Iporanga Ventures and Endeavor Scale-Up.

MadeRight, an Israeli fungi-based packaging solutions provider, raised $2 million in a seed funding round led by Fresh Start with participation from Arkin Holdings and ARC Impact.

Cascade Biocatalysts, a US-based biomanufacturing company, raised an oversubscribed $2.6 million pre-seed round led by Ten VC with participation from Amplify LA, Boost VC, Range Ventures, Spacecadet and the Cool Climate Collective.

Also in the news…

Toyota grows strawberries and tomatoes in car plant
The Japanese car maker has set up trial controlled environment farms to repurpose waste heat and CO2 from its production lines (Toyota Times).

In depth: How agreement on Australia’s MDB Plan could move water markets
There are fears that the federal government’s pursuit of 450GL of water through buybacks could cost the state roughly A$15bn ($9.7 billion; €9 billion), raise water prices and harm food security (Agri Investor).

Australia settles climate lawsuit over systemic risks to sovereign bonds
The Australian government has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit which alleged it had failed to disclose climate change-related risks to investors in the country’s sovereign bonds (Reuters).

British and Dutch DFI’s back Ethiopia’s agri exports with $40m loan
British International Investment and FMO loan to Dashen Bank will support machinery acquisition and provide access to much-needed foreign exchange within Ethiopia (African Business).

UK needs to wake up to the insect protein opportunity
Insects represent a sustainable livestock feed alternative but British regulation is stuck with the same barriers erected in response to ‘mad cow’ disease in 2001, say Rachel O’Connor and Peter Smithers (Agri Investor).

US small-acreage forest landowners get $150m for voluntary markets entry
The grant from the USDA Forestry Service is being delivered as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (Cision).

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