Most Active VCs in FoodTech: Big Ideas, Big Checks

Most Active VCs in FoodTech: Big Ideas, Big Checks

By
Sam Panzer
May 24, 2021

Big ideas need big money. And in 2021, the ideas and the capital are roaring like never before.

Whether it’s risk-loving VC firms looking to get an early piece of the next Oatly (hello, $12B), more traditional investment banks out for solid returns, or Corporate VCs hoping not to get left behind, foodtech founders have more financing available to them than ever before.

Here, we’re taking a high-level look at the state of VC in foodtech: why it’s booming, who’s active, and what’s next. Today, we’re focusing on specialty VCs (investors specifically focused on food system innovation) and traditional VCs (other tech accelerators and investors).

Next week we'll dive into CVC's.

Source: Crunchbase + FoodHack Investors Database
*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.

📈 Key Figures

  • A record-shattering $22.3B was invested into the space in 2020, with $17.3B in food tech and $5B in ag tech –– a 35% jump over 2019, with an even bigger leap forecasted for 2021. That’s a 9.6x increase since 2015.
  • Corporate Venture Capital participation saw a compound annual growth rage (CAGR) of 152% between 2010 and 2020.
  • $1.6B was 2020’s largest deal size in food & agritech, going to Lineage Logistics for their global network of cold storage facilities. Closer to the consumer, Impossible made history twice with a $500M Series F and $200M Series G just months apart.
  • Vertical farming was a particularly hot space with major deals in 2020, led by Infarm’s $170M debt + equity raise. But it’s crowded inside, with major raises from competitors like Plenty ($140M) and Gotham Greens ($87M).

🤔 Why?

Foodtech used to be a niche investment. But with blockbuster IPOs in food moving from delivery giants to consumer products (like Beyond Meat in 2019 or Oatly last week), investors are acutely aware that there’s serious return potential in food.

That opportunity means that VC investors are more and more keen to incorporate food products and foodtech companies into their rounds. Not everything will be a home run, but if a VC invests in say, 20 cultured meat startups today, perhaps one or two will later go public or be acquired, giving the VC an opportunity to cash out – big time. 

For example, look at Kleiner Perkins’ investment in Beyond Meat. They invested in Beyond’s first raise, their Series A. At that point, the company was valued at $5M. Just after the public offering, their shares rose to $3.8B in value. For Kleiner Perkins, that’s a 760x return on their initial investment. Yes, 760x.

For the founder, taking outside investment not only means a big check to buy the next processing line, hire an elite sales team, or blanket your new markets with ads. VCs also often offer key introductions to prospects, investors, and other folks who can help out. Some even combine their investment with an accelerator program with focused mentorship and product incubation. 

In short, investors are hungrier than ever, and founders have good reason to raise.

⚙️ Where?

  • Traditionally, more VC dollars go to downstream investments – retail products, restaurant delivery, and e-grocery. But last year, upstream took the cake with 52% of investment, going to startups in farm tech, biotech, and other businesses further away from the consumer.
  • The US is still the leading investment market by deal size and value, with 815 deals in 2020 over China’s 115, India’s 164, and the UK’s 133 according to the AgFunder 2021 AgriFoodTech Investment Report. This reversed a decline in the US’s investment share, possibly as investors look for safer bets in established markets.
  • While Mergers & Acquisitions remain the go-to strategy for big corporates looking to get in on hot categories, in-house venture capital (“Corporate VCs”) continue to shape the fundraising landscape.
  • The median Series A deal size is $6M, increasing to $49M in Series D. Per the AgFunder report, downstream and upstream deals are similar in size. In later rounds, downstream deals grow in size, often to fuel costly market expansion.
  • Focused speciality VCs are raising funds specifically in food and agtech lead investments in the space (especially earlier-stage). These specialty VCs combine deep industry experience with serious capital – take Big Idea Ventures’ New Protein Fund for example, putting $50M behind some of the boldest startups in cell and plant-based foods (and the innovators supporting a new ecosystem).

💡 Median Deal Size by Company Stage

Source: AgFunder 2021 Investment Report

🌱 Who: Speciality VCs

  • AgFunder invests in system change. They’ve made 40+ investments (including 5 in 2021) from Seed to Series C, largely focused on ag tech and robotics. This includes 2 exits (Root AI, acquired by AppHarvest, and ImpactVision acquired by Apeel). Their portfolio also features a high volume of female founders, a welcome sight in the space.
  • Big Idea Ventures runs accelerator programs and three funds (New Proteins, Generation Food, and Rural Partners). The $50M New Protein Fund invests in innovative companies working on plant-based food or ingredients, food technology, and cellular agriculture technology including the likes of Biftek (beef), Grounded Foods Co. (cheese), Hooked (seafood), and Evo (eggs). 
  • S2G Ventures has made over 80 investments since 2015 across all funding rounds and the entire food value chain, likewise with a focus on environment and health outlook. Portfolio includes data platforms, supply chain solutions, and products. 
  • Unovis Asset Management is one of the global leaders in the alternative protein sector with a focus on companies developing innovative plant-based and cultivated replacements to animal products, including meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Their portfolio includes cellular agriculture (e.g. Imagindairy, Aleph Farms, The Protein Brewery), plant based (e.g. Alpha Foods, Atlast Food Co., Heura, Miyoko's, Nova Meat) and convenience and/or opportunity exploration (LIGHTER, Dao Foods International)
  • Rockstart has built a global network through their accelerator approach. They’ve also invested in 200 startups since 2011, and have a dedicated AgriFood Fund which has invested in the likes of promising upstream startups like MyCrops (telemedicine for plants), Mooofarm (on-call veterinarians), and Nanomik (plant-derived biofungicides and cleaners).
  • EIT Food supports early-stage startups with  access to funding through typical check sizes up to up to €300K. EIT Food has backed leading agrifoodtech companies like AgriTask (helps farmers and agribusiness consolidate data), Eatch (fully automated kitchen), FoodPairing (AI to develop digital flavour models), Phytolon (fermentation-based technology colorants) and more.
  • Innova Memphis invests across several health-related industries (pre-seed and seed), including AgTech, to drive innovation in Memphis, Tennessee. They’re also a leading investor in Black- and Latinx-founded companies. 
  • Astanor is a mission-driven investor largely focused on soil heath and sustainability. Recent investments include participation in Cervest’s $30M Series A, tracking corporate climate risks. Their track record includes early investments in successes like Ÿnsect (2019) and Infarm (2018).
  • Blue Horizon Ventures is putting their €150M under management to work building a more sustainable food system, with a focus on alt-protein and sustainable food products as well as upstream providers like Cubiq Foods’ cultivated fats and Geltor’s biodesigned proteins.
  • Veg Capital is an early-stage investment fund for vegan replacement products like Mighty Pea milk, Grounded milkshakes, and OGGS egg substitutes. 
  • Finistere Ventures backs disruptive food & ag companies, like beekeeping insight platform ApisProtect or cultured meet startup Upside Foods. They were also an early investor in vertical farming brand Plenty, participating in their $200M 2017 round.
  • Atlantic Food Labs is a venture studio and investor in Berlin that’s backed a few of the city’s foodtech innovators like Infarm, Mushlabs, and Formo (formerly LegenDairy). They also participated in Gorillas’ Seed, Series A, and Series B rounds.
  • The Yield Lab’s accelerator program has backed upstream logistics and hardware platforms like Planetarians, Agree, and Notch Ordering, offering a $100K equity investment to participants in addition to other support.
🔎  Access our full database of 80+ investors in foodtech


Calling all PhD students in Food and AgTech 💡 Turn your research into a viable business with EIT Food

Applications are now open for Stage II of the EIT Global Food Venture Programme! Successful applicants will learn how to turn their initial idea into a viable food & agtech business through 6 months of tailored mentoring and coaching. Apply Today. Deadline: 13 June 2021.

Deadline: 13th June 2021 | Apply now

Sponsored by EIT-Food | Global Food Venture Programme


🏢 Who: Traditional VCs & Investment Banks

The speciality VCs above are largely mission-driven investors looking to help solve the problems in our food system (maybe earning a few million along the way). What about the traditional VC firms, the kinds that have driven many of the tech IPOs of the last decade?

Ag- and foodtech are not software. While a lot of B2B or B2C software startups can often earn margins over 75% with mainly personnel and marketing costs, foodtech and agtech startups often require equipment, R&D, and product distribution. That’s why a lot of the biggest checks long went to platforms like Delivery Hero or Just Eat.

There are certainly traditional players cutting checks in foodtech. See Temasek Holdings (Singapore), Tencent (China), Artesian VC (Australia), or SOSV (USA / Global). Take SOSV: while they invest in ‘positive change’ across many industries, they’ve been a major backer of Upside Foods (formerly Memphis), plant-based collagen startup Geltor, and alt milks from Perfect Day.

Accelerators in particular do well here, with Y Combinator’s track record including alt-protein startups like Orbillion and Juicy Marbles and platforms like DoorDash or Eatable. Plug & Play has run hundreds of companies through their accelerator programs around the world, with corporate backing from the likes of Hershey, Walmart, and Tyson.

More recently, disruptive investor Tiger Global Management has backed food startups like Getir (grocery delivery), Frubana (B2B produce delivery), and Zomato (restaurant platform). Tiger is upending the VC world with up to 5 deals per week and minimal due diligence to achieve an investment “velocity” never before seen.

But Tiger and accelerators aside, traditional VCs are “ less relevant for food- and agtech founders, especially for earlier-stage investments.

🔎 FoodHack Investors Database

Access our full database of 80+ investors in FoodTech

❌ Challenges

  • Fundraising is more and more the norm, meaning founders spend heaps of time focused on their next raise (at the expense of other responsibilities).
  • The grow-fast-at-all-costs expectation of many VCs can be a strain on the product, people, and mission of a startup. This accelerates all kinds of risk, from team culture to product quality to logistics headaches. 
  • Fueled by VC investment, startups use loss-leading practices like free delivery or huge discounts. If used without a careful promotion strategy, these practices can end up outweighing the customer’s revenue potential.


🔮 Predictions

Despite unprecedented uncertainty, it’s an incredible time for VC activity. Deal sizes and valuations keep growing, funding cycles are accelerating, and follow-on rounds keep coming. And VC returns remain solid, bringing more investors into the VC game.

This could be an Icarus moment for some VCs: fly high, fall far. When a downturn comes, some foodtech valuations will contract and investment will be harder to come by. Beyond foodtech, other overvalued companies will slow spending, threatening the broader economy.

But I’ve been holding my breath since 2019, and VC keeps humming along. There are simply more great foodtech companies out there, and more investors eager to join in. Our prediction remains that the current cycle can’t last forever, but foodtech businesses should still raise to fuel growth while macroeconomic conditions are favorable. That’s especially true for capital-intensive tech like cultured proteins and precision fermentation.

It’s a bit dizzying, but the cash flowing into foodtech is transforming our food system for the better at an unprecedented pace. Once-moonshot products are on supermarket shelves, transformative tech is on the horizon, and founders with great ideas are getting meetings with VCs fighting the same fight. 

Tune in again next week, when we dive deep into Corporate VCs: funds backed and often managed by big corporates. 

*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.


p.s. add your FoodTech VC to the database here https://airtable.com/shrzysvzltnbp7YJV

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Big ideas need big money. And in 2021, the ideas and the capital are roaring like never before.

Whether it’s risk-loving VC firms looking to get an early piece of the next Oatly (hello, $12B), more traditional investment banks out for solid returns, or Corporate VCs hoping not to get left behind, foodtech founders have more financing available to them than ever before.

Here, we’re taking a high-level look at the state of VC in foodtech: why it’s booming, who’s active, and what’s next. Today, we’re focusing on specialty VCs (investors specifically focused on food system innovation) and traditional VCs (other tech accelerators and investors).

Next week we'll dive into CVC's.

Source: Crunchbase + FoodHack Investors Database
*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.

📈 Key Figures

  • A record-shattering $22.3B was invested into the space in 2020, with $17.3B in food tech and $5B in ag tech –– a 35% jump over 2019, with an even bigger leap forecasted for 2021. That’s a 9.6x increase since 2015.
  • Corporate Venture Capital participation saw a compound annual growth rage (CAGR) of 152% between 2010 and 2020.
  • $1.6B was 2020’s largest deal size in food & agritech, going to Lineage Logistics for their global network of cold storage facilities. Closer to the consumer, Impossible made history twice with a $500M Series F and $200M Series G just months apart.
  • Vertical farming was a particularly hot space with major deals in 2020, led by Infarm’s $170M debt + equity raise. But it’s crowded inside, with major raises from competitors like Plenty ($140M) and Gotham Greens ($87M).

🤔 Why?

Foodtech used to be a niche investment. But with blockbuster IPOs in food moving from delivery giants to consumer products (like Beyond Meat in 2019 or Oatly last week), investors are acutely aware that there’s serious return potential in food.

That opportunity means that VC investors are more and more keen to incorporate food products and foodtech companies into their rounds. Not everything will be a home run, but if a VC invests in say, 20 cultured meat startups today, perhaps one or two will later go public or be acquired, giving the VC an opportunity to cash out – big time. 

For example, look at Kleiner Perkins’ investment in Beyond Meat. They invested in Beyond’s first raise, their Series A. At that point, the company was valued at $5M. Just after the public offering, their shares rose to $3.8B in value. For Kleiner Perkins, that’s a 760x return on their initial investment. Yes, 760x.

For the founder, taking outside investment not only means a big check to buy the next processing line, hire an elite sales team, or blanket your new markets with ads. VCs also often offer key introductions to prospects, investors, and other folks who can help out. Some even combine their investment with an accelerator program with focused mentorship and product incubation. 

In short, investors are hungrier than ever, and founders have good reason to raise.

⚙️ Where?

  • Traditionally, more VC dollars go to downstream investments – retail products, restaurant delivery, and e-grocery. But last year, upstream took the cake with 52% of investment, going to startups in farm tech, biotech, and other businesses further away from the consumer.
  • The US is still the leading investment market by deal size and value, with 815 deals in 2020 over China’s 115, India’s 164, and the UK’s 133 according to the AgFunder 2021 AgriFoodTech Investment Report. This reversed a decline in the US’s investment share, possibly as investors look for safer bets in established markets.
  • While Mergers & Acquisitions remain the go-to strategy for big corporates looking to get in on hot categories, in-house venture capital (“Corporate VCs”) continue to shape the fundraising landscape.
  • The median Series A deal size is $6M, increasing to $49M in Series D. Per the AgFunder report, downstream and upstream deals are similar in size. In later rounds, downstream deals grow in size, often to fuel costly market expansion.
  • Focused speciality VCs are raising funds specifically in food and agtech lead investments in the space (especially earlier-stage). These specialty VCs combine deep industry experience with serious capital – take Big Idea Ventures’ New Protein Fund for example, putting $50M behind some of the boldest startups in cell and plant-based foods (and the innovators supporting a new ecosystem).

💡 Median Deal Size by Company Stage

Source: AgFunder 2021 Investment Report

🌱 Who: Speciality VCs

  • AgFunder invests in system change. They’ve made 40+ investments (including 5 in 2021) from Seed to Series C, largely focused on ag tech and robotics. This includes 2 exits (Root AI, acquired by AppHarvest, and ImpactVision acquired by Apeel). Their portfolio also features a high volume of female founders, a welcome sight in the space.
  • Big Idea Ventures runs accelerator programs and three funds (New Proteins, Generation Food, and Rural Partners). The $50M New Protein Fund invests in innovative companies working on plant-based food or ingredients, food technology, and cellular agriculture technology including the likes of Biftek (beef), Grounded Foods Co. (cheese), Hooked (seafood), and Evo (eggs). 
  • S2G Ventures has made over 80 investments since 2015 across all funding rounds and the entire food value chain, likewise with a focus on environment and health outlook. Portfolio includes data platforms, supply chain solutions, and products. 
  • Unovis Asset Management is one of the global leaders in the alternative protein sector with a focus on companies developing innovative plant-based and cultivated replacements to animal products, including meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Their portfolio includes cellular agriculture (e.g. Imagindairy, Aleph Farms, The Protein Brewery), plant based (e.g. Alpha Foods, Atlast Food Co., Heura, Miyoko's, Nova Meat) and convenience and/or opportunity exploration (LIGHTER, Dao Foods International)
  • Rockstart has built a global network through their accelerator approach. They’ve also invested in 200 startups since 2011, and have a dedicated AgriFood Fund which has invested in the likes of promising upstream startups like MyCrops (telemedicine for plants), Mooofarm (on-call veterinarians), and Nanomik (plant-derived biofungicides and cleaners).
  • EIT Food supports early-stage startups with  access to funding through typical check sizes up to up to €300K. EIT Food has backed leading agrifoodtech companies like AgriTask (helps farmers and agribusiness consolidate data), Eatch (fully automated kitchen), FoodPairing (AI to develop digital flavour models), Phytolon (fermentation-based technology colorants) and more.
  • Innova Memphis invests across several health-related industries (pre-seed and seed), including AgTech, to drive innovation in Memphis, Tennessee. They’re also a leading investor in Black- and Latinx-founded companies. 
  • Astanor is a mission-driven investor largely focused on soil heath and sustainability. Recent investments include participation in Cervest’s $30M Series A, tracking corporate climate risks. Their track record includes early investments in successes like Ÿnsect (2019) and Infarm (2018).
  • Blue Horizon Ventures is putting their €150M under management to work building a more sustainable food system, with a focus on alt-protein and sustainable food products as well as upstream providers like Cubiq Foods’ cultivated fats and Geltor’s biodesigned proteins.
  • Veg Capital is an early-stage investment fund for vegan replacement products like Mighty Pea milk, Grounded milkshakes, and OGGS egg substitutes. 
  • Finistere Ventures backs disruptive food & ag companies, like beekeeping insight platform ApisProtect or cultured meet startup Upside Foods. They were also an early investor in vertical farming brand Plenty, participating in their $200M 2017 round.
  • Atlantic Food Labs is a venture studio and investor in Berlin that’s backed a few of the city’s foodtech innovators like Infarm, Mushlabs, and Formo (formerly LegenDairy). They also participated in Gorillas’ Seed, Series A, and Series B rounds.
  • The Yield Lab’s accelerator program has backed upstream logistics and hardware platforms like Planetarians, Agree, and Notch Ordering, offering a $100K equity investment to participants in addition to other support.
🔎  Access our full database of 80+ investors in foodtech


Calling all PhD students in Food and AgTech 💡 Turn your research into a viable business with EIT Food

Applications are now open for Stage II of the EIT Global Food Venture Programme! Successful applicants will learn how to turn their initial idea into a viable food & agtech business through 6 months of tailored mentoring and coaching. Apply Today. Deadline: 13 June 2021.

Deadline: 13th June 2021 | Apply now

Sponsored by EIT-Food | Global Food Venture Programme


🏢 Who: Traditional VCs & Investment Banks

The speciality VCs above are largely mission-driven investors looking to help solve the problems in our food system (maybe earning a few million along the way). What about the traditional VC firms, the kinds that have driven many of the tech IPOs of the last decade?

Ag- and foodtech are not software. While a lot of B2B or B2C software startups can often earn margins over 75% with mainly personnel and marketing costs, foodtech and agtech startups often require equipment, R&D, and product distribution. That’s why a lot of the biggest checks long went to platforms like Delivery Hero or Just Eat.

There are certainly traditional players cutting checks in foodtech. See Temasek Holdings (Singapore), Tencent (China), Artesian VC (Australia), or SOSV (USA / Global). Take SOSV: while they invest in ‘positive change’ across many industries, they’ve been a major backer of Upside Foods (formerly Memphis), plant-based collagen startup Geltor, and alt milks from Perfect Day.

Accelerators in particular do well here, with Y Combinator’s track record including alt-protein startups like Orbillion and Juicy Marbles and platforms like DoorDash or Eatable. Plug & Play has run hundreds of companies through their accelerator programs around the world, with corporate backing from the likes of Hershey, Walmart, and Tyson.

More recently, disruptive investor Tiger Global Management has backed food startups like Getir (grocery delivery), Frubana (B2B produce delivery), and Zomato (restaurant platform). Tiger is upending the VC world with up to 5 deals per week and minimal due diligence to achieve an investment “velocity” never before seen.

But Tiger and accelerators aside, traditional VCs are “ less relevant for food- and agtech founders, especially for earlier-stage investments.

🔎 FoodHack Investors Database

Access our full database of 80+ investors in FoodTech

❌ Challenges

  • Fundraising is more and more the norm, meaning founders spend heaps of time focused on their next raise (at the expense of other responsibilities).
  • The grow-fast-at-all-costs expectation of many VCs can be a strain on the product, people, and mission of a startup. This accelerates all kinds of risk, from team culture to product quality to logistics headaches. 
  • Fueled by VC investment, startups use loss-leading practices like free delivery or huge discounts. If used without a careful promotion strategy, these practices can end up outweighing the customer’s revenue potential.


🔮 Predictions

Despite unprecedented uncertainty, it’s an incredible time for VC activity. Deal sizes and valuations keep growing, funding cycles are accelerating, and follow-on rounds keep coming. And VC returns remain solid, bringing more investors into the VC game.

This could be an Icarus moment for some VCs: fly high, fall far. When a downturn comes, some foodtech valuations will contract and investment will be harder to come by. Beyond foodtech, other overvalued companies will slow spending, threatening the broader economy.

But I’ve been holding my breath since 2019, and VC keeps humming along. There are simply more great foodtech companies out there, and more investors eager to join in. Our prediction remains that the current cycle can’t last forever, but foodtech businesses should still raise to fuel growth while macroeconomic conditions are favorable. That’s especially true for capital-intensive tech like cultured proteins and precision fermentation.

It’s a bit dizzying, but the cash flowing into foodtech is transforming our food system for the better at an unprecedented pace. Once-moonshot products are on supermarket shelves, transformative tech is on the horizon, and founders with great ideas are getting meetings with VCs fighting the same fight. 

Tune in again next week, when we dive deep into Corporate VCs: funds backed and often managed by big corporates. 

*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.


p.s. add your FoodTech VC to the database here https://airtable.com/shrzysvzltnbp7YJV

Big ideas need big money. And in 2021, the ideas and the capital are roaring like never before.

Whether it’s risk-loving VC firms looking to get an early piece of the next Oatly (hello, $12B), more traditional investment banks out for solid returns, or Corporate VCs hoping not to get left behind, foodtech founders have more financing available to them than ever before.

Here, we’re taking a high-level look at the state of VC in foodtech: why it’s booming, who’s active, and what’s next. Today, we’re focusing on specialty VCs (investors specifically focused on food system innovation) and traditional VCs (other tech accelerators and investors).

Next week we'll dive into CVC's.

Source: Crunchbase + FoodHack Investors Database
*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.

📈 Key Figures

  • A record-shattering $22.3B was invested into the space in 2020, with $17.3B in food tech and $5B in ag tech –– a 35% jump over 2019, with an even bigger leap forecasted for 2021. That’s a 9.6x increase since 2015.
  • Corporate Venture Capital participation saw a compound annual growth rage (CAGR) of 152% between 2010 and 2020.
  • $1.6B was 2020’s largest deal size in food & agritech, going to Lineage Logistics for their global network of cold storage facilities. Closer to the consumer, Impossible made history twice with a $500M Series F and $200M Series G just months apart.
  • Vertical farming was a particularly hot space with major deals in 2020, led by Infarm’s $170M debt + equity raise. But it’s crowded inside, with major raises from competitors like Plenty ($140M) and Gotham Greens ($87M).

🤔 Why?

Foodtech used to be a niche investment. But with blockbuster IPOs in food moving from delivery giants to consumer products (like Beyond Meat in 2019 or Oatly last week), investors are acutely aware that there’s serious return potential in food.

That opportunity means that VC investors are more and more keen to incorporate food products and foodtech companies into their rounds. Not everything will be a home run, but if a VC invests in say, 20 cultured meat startups today, perhaps one or two will later go public or be acquired, giving the VC an opportunity to cash out – big time. 

For example, look at Kleiner Perkins’ investment in Beyond Meat. They invested in Beyond’s first raise, their Series A. At that point, the company was valued at $5M. Just after the public offering, their shares rose to $3.8B in value. For Kleiner Perkins, that’s a 760x return on their initial investment. Yes, 760x.

For the founder, taking outside investment not only means a big check to buy the next processing line, hire an elite sales team, or blanket your new markets with ads. VCs also often offer key introductions to prospects, investors, and other folks who can help out. Some even combine their investment with an accelerator program with focused mentorship and product incubation. 

In short, investors are hungrier than ever, and founders have good reason to raise.

⚙️ Where?

  • Traditionally, more VC dollars go to downstream investments – retail products, restaurant delivery, and e-grocery. But last year, upstream took the cake with 52% of investment, going to startups in farm tech, biotech, and other businesses further away from the consumer.
  • The US is still the leading investment market by deal size and value, with 815 deals in 2020 over China’s 115, India’s 164, and the UK’s 133 according to the AgFunder 2021 AgriFoodTech Investment Report. This reversed a decline in the US’s investment share, possibly as investors look for safer bets in established markets.
  • While Mergers & Acquisitions remain the go-to strategy for big corporates looking to get in on hot categories, in-house venture capital (“Corporate VCs”) continue to shape the fundraising landscape.
  • The median Series A deal size is $6M, increasing to $49M in Series D. Per the AgFunder report, downstream and upstream deals are similar in size. In later rounds, downstream deals grow in size, often to fuel costly market expansion.
  • Focused speciality VCs are raising funds specifically in food and agtech lead investments in the space (especially earlier-stage). These specialty VCs combine deep industry experience with serious capital – take Big Idea Ventures’ New Protein Fund for example, putting $50M behind some of the boldest startups in cell and plant-based foods (and the innovators supporting a new ecosystem).

💡 Median Deal Size by Company Stage

Source: AgFunder 2021 Investment Report

🌱 Who: Speciality VCs

  • AgFunder invests in system change. They’ve made 40+ investments (including 5 in 2021) from Seed to Series C, largely focused on ag tech and robotics. This includes 2 exits (Root AI, acquired by AppHarvest, and ImpactVision acquired by Apeel). Their portfolio also features a high volume of female founders, a welcome sight in the space.
  • Big Idea Ventures runs accelerator programs and three funds (New Proteins, Generation Food, and Rural Partners). The $50M New Protein Fund invests in innovative companies working on plant-based food or ingredients, food technology, and cellular agriculture technology including the likes of Biftek (beef), Grounded Foods Co. (cheese), Hooked (seafood), and Evo (eggs). 
  • S2G Ventures has made over 80 investments since 2015 across all funding rounds and the entire food value chain, likewise with a focus on environment and health outlook. Portfolio includes data platforms, supply chain solutions, and products. 
  • Unovis Asset Management is one of the global leaders in the alternative protein sector with a focus on companies developing innovative plant-based and cultivated replacements to animal products, including meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Their portfolio includes cellular agriculture (e.g. Imagindairy, Aleph Farms, The Protein Brewery), plant based (e.g. Alpha Foods, Atlast Food Co., Heura, Miyoko's, Nova Meat) and convenience and/or opportunity exploration (LIGHTER, Dao Foods International)
  • Rockstart has built a global network through their accelerator approach. They’ve also invested in 200 startups since 2011, and have a dedicated AgriFood Fund which has invested in the likes of promising upstream startups like MyCrops (telemedicine for plants), Mooofarm (on-call veterinarians), and Nanomik (plant-derived biofungicides and cleaners).
  • EIT Food supports early-stage startups with  access to funding through typical check sizes up to up to €300K. EIT Food has backed leading agrifoodtech companies like AgriTask (helps farmers and agribusiness consolidate data), Eatch (fully automated kitchen), FoodPairing (AI to develop digital flavour models), Phytolon (fermentation-based technology colorants) and more.
  • Innova Memphis invests across several health-related industries (pre-seed and seed), including AgTech, to drive innovation in Memphis, Tennessee. They’re also a leading investor in Black- and Latinx-founded companies. 
  • Astanor is a mission-driven investor largely focused on soil heath and sustainability. Recent investments include participation in Cervest’s $30M Series A, tracking corporate climate risks. Their track record includes early investments in successes like Ÿnsect (2019) and Infarm (2018).
  • Blue Horizon Ventures is putting their €150M under management to work building a more sustainable food system, with a focus on alt-protein and sustainable food products as well as upstream providers like Cubiq Foods’ cultivated fats and Geltor’s biodesigned proteins.
  • Veg Capital is an early-stage investment fund for vegan replacement products like Mighty Pea milk, Grounded milkshakes, and OGGS egg substitutes. 
  • Finistere Ventures backs disruptive food & ag companies, like beekeeping insight platform ApisProtect or cultured meet startup Upside Foods. They were also an early investor in vertical farming brand Plenty, participating in their $200M 2017 round.
  • Atlantic Food Labs is a venture studio and investor in Berlin that’s backed a few of the city’s foodtech innovators like Infarm, Mushlabs, and Formo (formerly LegenDairy). They also participated in Gorillas’ Seed, Series A, and Series B rounds.
  • The Yield Lab’s accelerator program has backed upstream logistics and hardware platforms like Planetarians, Agree, and Notch Ordering, offering a $100K equity investment to participants in addition to other support.
🔎  Access our full database of 80+ investors in foodtech


Calling all PhD students in Food and AgTech 💡 Turn your research into a viable business with EIT Food

Applications are now open for Stage II of the EIT Global Food Venture Programme! Successful applicants will learn how to turn their initial idea into a viable food & agtech business through 6 months of tailored mentoring and coaching. Apply Today. Deadline: 13 June 2021.

Deadline: 13th June 2021 | Apply now

Sponsored by EIT-Food | Global Food Venture Programme


🏢 Who: Traditional VCs & Investment Banks

The speciality VCs above are largely mission-driven investors looking to help solve the problems in our food system (maybe earning a few million along the way). What about the traditional VC firms, the kinds that have driven many of the tech IPOs of the last decade?

Ag- and foodtech are not software. While a lot of B2B or B2C software startups can often earn margins over 75% with mainly personnel and marketing costs, foodtech and agtech startups often require equipment, R&D, and product distribution. That’s why a lot of the biggest checks long went to platforms like Delivery Hero or Just Eat.

There are certainly traditional players cutting checks in foodtech. See Temasek Holdings (Singapore), Tencent (China), Artesian VC (Australia), or SOSV (USA / Global). Take SOSV: while they invest in ‘positive change’ across many industries, they’ve been a major backer of Upside Foods (formerly Memphis), plant-based collagen startup Geltor, and alt milks from Perfect Day.

Accelerators in particular do well here, with Y Combinator’s track record including alt-protein startups like Orbillion and Juicy Marbles and platforms like DoorDash or Eatable. Plug & Play has run hundreds of companies through their accelerator programs around the world, with corporate backing from the likes of Hershey, Walmart, and Tyson.

More recently, disruptive investor Tiger Global Management has backed food startups like Getir (grocery delivery), Frubana (B2B produce delivery), and Zomato (restaurant platform). Tiger is upending the VC world with up to 5 deals per week and minimal due diligence to achieve an investment “velocity” never before seen.

But Tiger and accelerators aside, traditional VCs are “ less relevant for food- and agtech founders, especially for earlier-stage investments.

🔎 FoodHack Investors Database

Access our full database of 80+ investors in FoodTech

❌ Challenges

  • Fundraising is more and more the norm, meaning founders spend heaps of time focused on their next raise (at the expense of other responsibilities).
  • The grow-fast-at-all-costs expectation of many VCs can be a strain on the product, people, and mission of a startup. This accelerates all kinds of risk, from team culture to product quality to logistics headaches. 
  • Fueled by VC investment, startups use loss-leading practices like free delivery or huge discounts. If used without a careful promotion strategy, these practices can end up outweighing the customer’s revenue potential.


🔮 Predictions

Despite unprecedented uncertainty, it’s an incredible time for VC activity. Deal sizes and valuations keep growing, funding cycles are accelerating, and follow-on rounds keep coming. And VC returns remain solid, bringing more investors into the VC game.

This could be an Icarus moment for some VCs: fly high, fall far. When a downturn comes, some foodtech valuations will contract and investment will be harder to come by. Beyond foodtech, other overvalued companies will slow spending, threatening the broader economy.

But I’ve been holding my breath since 2019, and VC keeps humming along. There are simply more great foodtech companies out there, and more investors eager to join in. Our prediction remains that the current cycle can’t last forever, but foodtech businesses should still raise to fuel growth while macroeconomic conditions are favorable. That’s especially true for capital-intensive tech like cultured proteins and precision fermentation.

It’s a bit dizzying, but the cash flowing into foodtech is transforming our food system for the better at an unprecedented pace. Once-moonshot products are on supermarket shelves, transformative tech is on the horizon, and founders with great ideas are getting meetings with VCs fighting the same fight. 

Tune in again next week, when we dive deep into Corporate VCs: funds backed and often managed by big corporates. 

*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.


p.s. add your FoodTech VC to the database here https://airtable.com/shrzysvzltnbp7YJV

Big ideas need big money. And in 2021, the ideas and the capital are roaring like never before.

Whether it’s risk-loving VC firms looking to get an early piece of the next Oatly (hello, $12B), more traditional investment banks out for solid returns, or Corporate VCs hoping not to get left behind, foodtech founders have more financing available to them than ever before.

Here, we’re taking a high-level look at the state of VC in foodtech: why it’s booming, who’s active, and what’s next. Today, we’re focusing on specialty VCs (investors specifically focused on food system innovation) and traditional VCs (other tech accelerators and investors).

Next week we'll dive into CVC's.

Source: Crunchbase + FoodHack Investors Database
*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.

📈 Key Figures

  • A record-shattering $22.3B was invested into the space in 2020, with $17.3B in food tech and $5B in ag tech –– a 35% jump over 2019, with an even bigger leap forecasted for 2021. That’s a 9.6x increase since 2015.
  • Corporate Venture Capital participation saw a compound annual growth rage (CAGR) of 152% between 2010 and 2020.
  • $1.6B was 2020’s largest deal size in food & agritech, going to Lineage Logistics for their global network of cold storage facilities. Closer to the consumer, Impossible made history twice with a $500M Series F and $200M Series G just months apart.
  • Vertical farming was a particularly hot space with major deals in 2020, led by Infarm’s $170M debt + equity raise. But it’s crowded inside, with major raises from competitors like Plenty ($140M) and Gotham Greens ($87M).

🤔 Why?

Foodtech used to be a niche investment. But with blockbuster IPOs in food moving from delivery giants to consumer products (like Beyond Meat in 2019 or Oatly last week), investors are acutely aware that there’s serious return potential in food.

That opportunity means that VC investors are more and more keen to incorporate food products and foodtech companies into their rounds. Not everything will be a home run, but if a VC invests in say, 20 cultured meat startups today, perhaps one or two will later go public or be acquired, giving the VC an opportunity to cash out – big time. 

For example, look at Kleiner Perkins’ investment in Beyond Meat. They invested in Beyond’s first raise, their Series A. At that point, the company was valued at $5M. Just after the public offering, their shares rose to $3.8B in value. For Kleiner Perkins, that’s a 760x return on their initial investment. Yes, 760x.

For the founder, taking outside investment not only means a big check to buy the next processing line, hire an elite sales team, or blanket your new markets with ads. VCs also often offer key introductions to prospects, investors, and other folks who can help out. Some even combine their investment with an accelerator program with focused mentorship and product incubation. 

In short, investors are hungrier than ever, and founders have good reason to raise.

⚙️ Where?

  • Traditionally, more VC dollars go to downstream investments – retail products, restaurant delivery, and e-grocery. But last year, upstream took the cake with 52% of investment, going to startups in farm tech, biotech, and other businesses further away from the consumer.
  • The US is still the leading investment market by deal size and value, with 815 deals in 2020 over China’s 115, India’s 164, and the UK’s 133 according to the AgFunder 2021 AgriFoodTech Investment Report. This reversed a decline in the US’s investment share, possibly as investors look for safer bets in established markets.
  • While Mergers & Acquisitions remain the go-to strategy for big corporates looking to get in on hot categories, in-house venture capital (“Corporate VCs”) continue to shape the fundraising landscape.
  • The median Series A deal size is $6M, increasing to $49M in Series D. Per the AgFunder report, downstream and upstream deals are similar in size. In later rounds, downstream deals grow in size, often to fuel costly market expansion.
  • Focused speciality VCs are raising funds specifically in food and agtech lead investments in the space (especially earlier-stage). These specialty VCs combine deep industry experience with serious capital – take Big Idea Ventures’ New Protein Fund for example, putting $50M behind some of the boldest startups in cell and plant-based foods (and the innovators supporting a new ecosystem).

💡 Median Deal Size by Company Stage

Source: AgFunder 2021 Investment Report

🌱 Who: Speciality VCs

  • AgFunder invests in system change. They’ve made 40+ investments (including 5 in 2021) from Seed to Series C, largely focused on ag tech and robotics. This includes 2 exits (Root AI, acquired by AppHarvest, and ImpactVision acquired by Apeel). Their portfolio also features a high volume of female founders, a welcome sight in the space.
  • Big Idea Ventures runs accelerator programs and three funds (New Proteins, Generation Food, and Rural Partners). The $50M New Protein Fund invests in innovative companies working on plant-based food or ingredients, food technology, and cellular agriculture technology including the likes of Biftek (beef), Grounded Foods Co. (cheese), Hooked (seafood), and Evo (eggs). 
  • S2G Ventures has made over 80 investments since 2015 across all funding rounds and the entire food value chain, likewise with a focus on environment and health outlook. Portfolio includes data platforms, supply chain solutions, and products. 
  • Unovis Asset Management is one of the global leaders in the alternative protein sector with a focus on companies developing innovative plant-based and cultivated replacements to animal products, including meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Their portfolio includes cellular agriculture (e.g. Imagindairy, Aleph Farms, The Protein Brewery), plant based (e.g. Alpha Foods, Atlast Food Co., Heura, Miyoko's, Nova Meat) and convenience and/or opportunity exploration (LIGHTER, Dao Foods International)
  • Rockstart has built a global network through their accelerator approach. They’ve also invested in 200 startups since 2011, and have a dedicated AgriFood Fund which has invested in the likes of promising upstream startups like MyCrops (telemedicine for plants), Mooofarm (on-call veterinarians), and Nanomik (plant-derived biofungicides and cleaners).
  • EIT Food supports early-stage startups with  access to funding through typical check sizes up to up to €300K. EIT Food has backed leading agrifoodtech companies like AgriTask (helps farmers and agribusiness consolidate data), Eatch (fully automated kitchen), FoodPairing (AI to develop digital flavour models), Phytolon (fermentation-based technology colorants) and more.
  • Innova Memphis invests across several health-related industries (pre-seed and seed), including AgTech, to drive innovation in Memphis, Tennessee. They’re also a leading investor in Black- and Latinx-founded companies. 
  • Astanor is a mission-driven investor largely focused on soil heath and sustainability. Recent investments include participation in Cervest’s $30M Series A, tracking corporate climate risks. Their track record includes early investments in successes like Ÿnsect (2019) and Infarm (2018).
  • Blue Horizon Ventures is putting their €150M under management to work building a more sustainable food system, with a focus on alt-protein and sustainable food products as well as upstream providers like Cubiq Foods’ cultivated fats and Geltor’s biodesigned proteins.
  • Veg Capital is an early-stage investment fund for vegan replacement products like Mighty Pea milk, Grounded milkshakes, and OGGS egg substitutes. 
  • Finistere Ventures backs disruptive food & ag companies, like beekeeping insight platform ApisProtect or cultured meet startup Upside Foods. They were also an early investor in vertical farming brand Plenty, participating in their $200M 2017 round.
  • Atlantic Food Labs is a venture studio and investor in Berlin that’s backed a few of the city’s foodtech innovators like Infarm, Mushlabs, and Formo (formerly LegenDairy). They also participated in Gorillas’ Seed, Series A, and Series B rounds.
  • The Yield Lab’s accelerator program has backed upstream logistics and hardware platforms like Planetarians, Agree, and Notch Ordering, offering a $100K equity investment to participants in addition to other support.
🔎  Access our full database of 80+ investors in foodtech


Calling all PhD students in Food and AgTech 💡 Turn your research into a viable business with EIT Food

Applications are now open for Stage II of the EIT Global Food Venture Programme! Successful applicants will learn how to turn their initial idea into a viable food & agtech business through 6 months of tailored mentoring and coaching. Apply Today. Deadline: 13 June 2021.

Deadline: 13th June 2021 | Apply now

Sponsored by EIT-Food | Global Food Venture Programme


🏢 Who: Traditional VCs & Investment Banks

The speciality VCs above are largely mission-driven investors looking to help solve the problems in our food system (maybe earning a few million along the way). What about the traditional VC firms, the kinds that have driven many of the tech IPOs of the last decade?

Ag- and foodtech are not software. While a lot of B2B or B2C software startups can often earn margins over 75% with mainly personnel and marketing costs, foodtech and agtech startups often require equipment, R&D, and product distribution. That’s why a lot of the biggest checks long went to platforms like Delivery Hero or Just Eat.

There are certainly traditional players cutting checks in foodtech. See Temasek Holdings (Singapore), Tencent (China), Artesian VC (Australia), or SOSV (USA / Global). Take SOSV: while they invest in ‘positive change’ across many industries, they’ve been a major backer of Upside Foods (formerly Memphis), plant-based collagen startup Geltor, and alt milks from Perfect Day.

Accelerators in particular do well here, with Y Combinator’s track record including alt-protein startups like Orbillion and Juicy Marbles and platforms like DoorDash or Eatable. Plug & Play has run hundreds of companies through their accelerator programs around the world, with corporate backing from the likes of Hershey, Walmart, and Tyson.

More recently, disruptive investor Tiger Global Management has backed food startups like Getir (grocery delivery), Frubana (B2B produce delivery), and Zomato (restaurant platform). Tiger is upending the VC world with up to 5 deals per week and minimal due diligence to achieve an investment “velocity” never before seen.

But Tiger and accelerators aside, traditional VCs are “ less relevant for food- and agtech founders, especially for earlier-stage investments.

🔎 FoodHack Investors Database

Access our full database of 80+ investors in FoodTech

❌ Challenges

  • Fundraising is more and more the norm, meaning founders spend heaps of time focused on their next raise (at the expense of other responsibilities).
  • The grow-fast-at-all-costs expectation of many VCs can be a strain on the product, people, and mission of a startup. This accelerates all kinds of risk, from team culture to product quality to logistics headaches. 
  • Fueled by VC investment, startups use loss-leading practices like free delivery or huge discounts. If used without a careful promotion strategy, these practices can end up outweighing the customer’s revenue potential.


🔮 Predictions

Despite unprecedented uncertainty, it’s an incredible time for VC activity. Deal sizes and valuations keep growing, funding cycles are accelerating, and follow-on rounds keep coming. And VC returns remain solid, bringing more investors into the VC game.

This could be an Icarus moment for some VCs: fly high, fall far. When a downturn comes, some foodtech valuations will contract and investment will be harder to come by. Beyond foodtech, other overvalued companies will slow spending, threatening the broader economy.

But I’ve been holding my breath since 2019, and VC keeps humming along. There are simply more great foodtech companies out there, and more investors eager to join in. Our prediction remains that the current cycle can’t last forever, but foodtech businesses should still raise to fuel growth while macroeconomic conditions are favorable. That’s especially true for capital-intensive tech like cultured proteins and precision fermentation.

It’s a bit dizzying, but the cash flowing into foodtech is transforming our food system for the better at an unprecedented pace. Once-moonshot products are on supermarket shelves, transformative tech is on the horizon, and founders with great ideas are getting meetings with VCs fighting the same fight. 

Tune in again next week, when we dive deep into Corporate VCs: funds backed and often managed by big corporates. 

*Our numbers are based on public information from VC websites, other public sources and Crunchbase, but we know that isn’t the whole story — if you’re in VC and have more accurate figures for us, email us at arman(at)foodhack.global and we’ll update your information.


p.s. add your FoodTech VC to the database here https://airtable.com/shrzysvzltnbp7YJV

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