New VC firm raises agtech fund

Lewis & Clark Ventures, which was founded last year, has raised $20m for the fund so far, and will focus on plant life sciences, agtech and health-related assets.

New venture capital firm Lewis & Clark Ventures has raised $20 million for its agriculture innovation fund, which is targeting $45 million, according to SEC filings.

Lewis & Clark Plant Sciences Fund I is focusing on agricultural technology, enterprise software, healthcare technology and financial technology. It will invest in companies that improve plant yield, increase energy efficiency, boost farmer productivity or streamline the distribution chain from farm to consumer, according to the firm.

Since being founded last year, the firm has already invested in several life sciences businesses, including OneSpace, Adarza Biosystems, and SpringBuk.

Managing director Brian Hopcraft said the firm’s location in the Midwest gave it a competitive advantage when investing in plant sciences. Based in St Louis, it is also situated near Monsanto’s headquarters, as well as agtech hubs like the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Cultivation Capital-backed accelerator Yield Labs.

“With these regional strengths, we are seeing a lot of innovative companies and look forward to backing the most promising among them,” said Hopcraft.

“More investment in this underserved and high potential sector is long overdue,” said general partner and the firm’s founder, Tom Hillman.

Links between medical and agtech investments are becoming increasingly evident. Local company Divergence, which spun out of Washington University Medical School and focuses on plant nematodes, was acquired by Monsanto, and other firms, like Open Prairie, have gone from investing in medical technology into agriculture.

Chief executive officer and founder of NewLeaf Symbiotics Tom Laurita told Agri Investor earlier this year that the ability to sequence the genome as well as other technological advances make cross-overs in agricultural and medical technology in early-stage companies increasingly likely.

Lewis & Clark has now raised $124 million.