It’s been a while since I’ve attended an in-person conference, and I couldn’t have been happier that my first one back was the AGRI Tech Venture Forum in Toronto. After two years of interacting through a camera and virtual breakout rooms, it was a welcomed change to connect in-person with leading #agtech and #foodtech innovators addressing some of agriculture’s toughest challenges. The AGRI forum offered endless food for thought, but here are my five key take-aways:
1. #Agtech and #Foodtech Punch Above Their Weight
In recent years, agriculture has gone through a major transformation. From being one of the most traditional sectors, it has become one of the most progressive ones. The industry has stepped up to address the need for a sustainable food supply chain to feed the world’s growing population. I was humbled by the conversations I had with thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors alike who were all there for a common goal. We could all agree that technology adoption is critical to increase yields, address labour shortages, improve quality, and combat climate change.
2. The Future for #Agtech is Bright
From remarks by Graeme Millen, Managing Director of Technology Banking for Silicon Valley Bank, to panel discussions with strategic corps and venture capitalists, the consensus is that agtech is going through a dramatic period of growth. Scott Komar, Senior VP, Global R&D for Driscoll’s summarized that the sector will be undergoing transformational levels of technology adoption over the next five years – that adoption is a necessity in light of headwinds from many directions. And while the “froth” of agtech company over-valuations in the last 18 months has started to dissipate, Graeme illustrated (with limitless charts and data) the unprecedented amount of liquidity currently in the ecosystem: certain players will win big and scale their tech rapidly with the backing of venture capital.
3. Partnerships, Partnerships, Partnerships
Securing investment is not like what you see on Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den. It’s about long-term relationships with your investors and strategic partners. Sara Olson, Principal of FMC Ventures, described the importance of who leads your investment round (hint: a strategic leading your round may cause issues), and to be pragmatic about choosing the right partners to sit at your cap table. Be sure to do your research and make sure to align yourself with the right partners because you’ll be in it for the long run.
4. Investing in R&D to Stay Competitive
Research and development help move agriculture and agri-food innovation forward. However, R&D can be pricey. Most of the Canadian start-ups who pitched at the forum emphasized the importance of various agencies who have supported their growth. The Government of Canada has multiple initiatives to help offset the cost of investing in research and development including grant funding, agricultural research centres, and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program (SR&ED). Copoint leverages SR&ED to help companies offset the risk of funding, allowing businesses to stay competitive and remain ahead of challenges faced by industry.
5. Agtech is Everywhere, Affects Everyone, and is Inseparable from Climate Change
Several speakers summed it up beautifully: whether you’re conscious of it or not, food and agtech is something that profoundly affects everyone, every day. Secondly, agtech and food production must be part of the solution if we’re going to reach net zero and meet climate objectives, due to increased future demand for food and the sector’s emissions footprint (approx. 25-35% of GHGs come from the food system).
I had the chance to sit in on some great start-up presentations which ranged from technology increasing the delivery of nutrients to plants (reducing fertilizer run-off) to supply chain traceability as well as applications of precision agriculture, big data, robotics, natural products, alternative proteins, and artificial intelligence to improve efficiency and reduce waste. I’m not alone in saying I left the AGRI Forum energized and optimistic for the future changes in this sector, and the role of Canada’s players (and international partners) in bringing it to fruition.
Copoint operates at the intersection of innovation and finance, science and tax, and government and industry. We collaborate with technology companies across multiple sectors, including agriculture and agrifood clients, to get them the highest return on their R&D investment through the SR&ED program, while saving them time. Contact us today to book an introductory call to learn how we can make SR&ED work for you.