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Finistere, Larta partner on agtech accelerator – exclusive

The Larta Institute will use endowment funds to invest in start-up companies alongside its venture capital partner.

The Larta Institute, an organisation focused on incubating and commercialising technology start-ups, is launching an agtech accelerator platform alongside life sciences-focused venture firm Finistere Ventures.

The initiative is part of an effort to boost the sector and bolster its own endowment fund, according to Rohit Shukla, Larta’s chief executive.

The accelerator platform will provide seed money to promising agtech companies that need to prepare for a Series A round of capital raising in what Shukla describes as a “cradle-to-craze” initiative. It will invest in two to three companies per year, and is currently looking for its first, Shukla told Agri Investor.

“It has taken up a while to do this because we are not like Silicon Valley where accelerators are the flavour of the day; we don’t like to serve wine before its time,” he said. “Instead we want to focus on building an enterprise that goes to the heat of the issue – funding needs are felt acutely in the agtech market place.”

Larta already works with start-up agtech firms under various government-led schemes responsible for funding emerging technology; it has ongoing relationships with the USDA and National Institute of Health as a commercialisation partner. It also organises a yearly conference, the Ag Innovation Showcase, which it says has been instrumental in the funding of various agtech ventures or M&A, such as Monsanto’s acquisition of Divergence, a biotechnology firm, and Syngenta’s acquisition of Pasteuria Bioscience, a biological pesticide company.

Larta has also been working closely with Finistere for many years and the VC firm was instrumental in the establishment of the showcase, according to Shukla.

“We are very close to Finistere, they have been wonderful supporters of us and the Ag Innovation Showcase and are one of the only funds I know that do not only put money where their mouth is, but also focus on the earliest phases [of a company] and stay all the way to the exit,” he said.

Based in San Diego, California, Finistere was last year raising its ‘Finistere II Fund’ to invest in technology “to address agricultural markets including food, energy and sustainability”, according to its website. It was expected to hold a final close last year. Additional information could not be confirmed at press time.