Copia Agro & Food, an Israeli fund investing in agricultural and food projects developed by Israeli research institutes, is targeting a $20 million first close in the second quarter of 2017 and seeks to reach its previously announced $50 million target by the end of next year, Agri Investor has learned.
The fund, which has started investing, is focused on “disruptive” projects that will address climate change, food shortage and agriculture’s negative environmental impacts, Ohad Zuckerman, co-manager of the fund with Eyal Cohen, told Agri Investor.
Rather than investing in startups or other companies, the fund invests in R&D projects, matching them with established industrial partners who in turn use their own capital to develop and commercialise the technologies, reducing financial risk and time to market, he explained.
“We spent a great deal of time thinking about how we could differentiate ourselves by doing something better than the regular VC model, which doesn’t have a great success rate,” said Zuckerman, who is the former chief executive of seed company Zeraim Gedera, part of Syngenta Group.
Copia’s first Israeli research partner is Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, operating through its Technology Transfer Office (TTO) Kidum. Copia, Volcani and its industrial partners already have six operational projects with additional three in the pipeline.
The fund is calling on institutional investors, funds of funds and high-net-worth investors for commitments, while an initial commitment from a Chinese family office is currently being invested.
Typical investments will range between $200,000 and $400,000 over two- to four-year investment periods, with exits occurring within four to six years — after sufficient sales and marketing procedures are underway, Zuckerman said.
Among its industrial partners is e-Nema, a German company developing a system to allow for newly-discovered predatory nematodes to eat the eggs of other types of nematodes, tiny worms which represent one of the top threats to horticultural and field crops. The fund has also teamed up with Danish and American companies that are targeting bacteria causing citrus greening, one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world.
“When we screen technologies, we always go to the market and ask both farmers and industrial companies what they think about the technology, if there’s value in it and if they believe they can implement it in a successful way,” Zuckerman said. “If they don’t respond positively then that’s probably not something we will finance.”