Proud to be selected on Forbes’ and Thrive’s top 50 AgTech companies in the world, 2nd year in a row!
The agtech landscape is littered with disruptors, but when “everyone is either disrupting or being disrupted,” as Jill Lepore wrote in a 2014 New Yorker piece entitled “The Disruption Machine,” how can you tell the difference between hype and a company that could bring about real change? “It’s a good question,” says John Hartnett, CEO of agtech investment firm SVG Partners, and it’s one he’s prepared to answer. As part of its THRIVE AgTech platform, SVG has just released its Top 50 Report ranking the best growth stage companies in the industry.
“If I look at the last five years,” says Hartnett, “investment in this whole category has increased 500% plus.” Across all of that investment, Hartnett acknowledges “there’s been quite a bit of hype across the digital side,” but he believes the top 50 have earned their ranking for a reason.
Hartnett offers Farmers Business Network as an example. The online network is kind of a central information hub for farmers, where they can analyze data collected from farm machines and find up-to-date pricing for things like seed and fertilizer. “Farmers Business Network [came] in…out of nowhere and [now] they’re disrupting the biggest companies,” he argues. “I kind of look at that as a real live example of a company making big traction.”Today In: Consumer
Robotics companies also made the list, says Hartnett, because the technology could help solve problems like labor shortages or demand for herbicide alternatives. And the technology is being put to the test in the field, which is an important data point for Hartnett. “Somebody like Driscoll’s berries, largest berry company in the world,” he says, is now beginning to use robot fruit pickers combined with artificial intelligence to ensure the berries are being picked when they’re actually ripe.
“There’s [also] a company that came to our accelerator called Farmwise,” says Hartnett, “[who uses] AI in conjunction with robotics automation solutions to be able to identify what’s a weed and what’s a plant to be able to target and get rid of the weed.” Farmwise made THRIVE’s “Ones To Watch” list, a list of contenders that fell just shy of making the Top 50.
Several “next-gen” farming operations made the Top 50, including the New Jersey-based vertical farm operation Aerofarms and Bright Farms, an indoor farming company based out of New York. Though vertical farms were initially met with skepticism by the industry, Hartnett says these days the technology looks far more scalable. “Vertical farming is still a small percentage of the overall pie of farming, but…there’s significant investment going into these companies,” which helped these startups become serious contenders.
Biotech—long a leading category in the overall agtech field—grew even more exponentially over the last year. The category captured 62% of the funding pool, a feat Hartnett suspects was helped along by an activity-driving boost from last year’s mega-mergers between agriculture giants like Bayer and Monsanto as well as DuPont and Corteva. Biotech companies like Indigo Ag and Gingko Bioworks made the Top 50 Report, due in part to this funding boom.
MicroGen Biotech, an Irish biotech company founded by a Chinese scientist with funding from both Chinese and Irish investors, is another company that made the “Ones To Watch” list. Hartnett, who is originally from Ireland, was intrigued by the company when he first came across it a few years ago. “They’re taking an interesting approach to reducing [impact from] metals in the soil [by] using their technology to protect the seed” rather than treat the soil directly.
“This year’s awardees are developing incredible solutions that enable the agriculture and food industries to respond…to urgent environmental challenges, labor shortages, food security and human health concerns” says Hartnett of the rankings. “Top 50 companies are critical assets to the industry and we are proud to highlight the incredible spectrum of innovation.”