As someone who loves food, wants to change the world, and believes that start-ups and early stage financiers can help drive much-needed change in our food industry, I keep tabs on investors working in the food and agriculture spaces. Here’s a quick list of groups working in the industry — and for startups, potential sources of equity financing.
Note: Originally published on April 28, 2015. The current publication date reflects the last time the list was updated.
What: Time-bound programs that typically offer mentorship, co-working space, and usually funding, often in the form of equity. Check out my list of accelerators and incubators here. The cash you’ll receive from these programs is usually not very substantial. If you’re truly fundraising, keep reading.
What: Angels are individual investors who choose to invest their personal money. They often invest at the seed round. Note: Some angel investors prefer debt-financing to equity financing. (And as a start-up, you might prefer that, too.) More on convertible notes later.
- Angel Food Network — no investments as of 2015 – Chicago
- Austin Foodshed Investors — “connecting accredited investors with local sustainable food companies”
- Colorado Food Investments — sustainable food investments – Boulder, CO
- Hyde Park Angels — Chicago — they have a consumer group
- Food Angels — Food, Alcohol, CPG, Drink or Food-Tech Companies – NYC
- The Cascadia Foodshed Funding Project (CFFP) — Seattle
- Slow Money NYC — Food – NYC
- Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG) — Chicago
Cash-for-perks: Crowdfunding is a way to take your fundraising efforts to the crowd. In exchange for some kind of perk (a shout out, early access to a new product, etc.), startups get cash from the crowd. See the list of crowdfunding platforms dedicated to food & beverage, consumer goods, and agriculture here.
Cash-for-equity: The other model for crowdfunding, which became a legal reality after the Title IV of the JOBS Act Jobs Act got the green light, is cash-for-equity. Investors may be angels or funds, which puts CrowdFunding (for equity) nicely between Accelerators & Venture Capital in terms of sources of equity. The platforms listed below curate deal flow for their investors, so you’ll have an additional round of selling to do just to get listed. From there, each investor makes their own decision on whether or not they’re interested in investing.
- AgFunder — AgTech – San Francisco
- CircleUp — Consumer Goods, including food & beverage – San Francisco
- Venture.co – Early stage investment bank packaging and selling raises from $400k-$15M; features some consumer-facing companies including food & bev
What: VCs are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund). Venture Capital firms usually invest at a slightly later stage than angels and at larger amounts, but these things are usually functions of their fund size and investment themes. Venture Capital funding is hard to get.
- Agri-Innovation Venture Capital Fund — Japan
- AgTech Innovation Fund — Davis, CA
- Armonia – regenerative farmland, brands & funds (focus on grass-fed beef) – Greenwich, CT
- Aqua Capital Management — water rights investment and management – Omaha, NE
- Aquacopia — Venture Capital for Aquaculture – NYC
- Aqua-Spark — Netherlands
- Arthur Ventures Growth Fund — focused on software, but sometimes makes ag software investments – Fargo, ND & Minneapolis
- Avrio Capital — “innovative food & agriculture companies” – Canada
- Better Food Ventures — Food/Tech – Menlo Park, CA
- Blueberry Ventures — “innovate brands in the food and beverage space – San Francisco, CA
- Boulder Food Group (BFG) — Food & Beverage – Boulder, CO
- Bradmer Foods — Consulting & Investment Firm – Baltimore, MD
- Capitol Food Ventures — business advisory and investment firm for food & ag businesses – Washington DC
- Clearwell Group — Tampa, FL
- Cleveland Avenue — Chicago – Started by McDonald’s former CEO Don Thompson, this VC fund is focused on food, beverage, and restaurant concepts
- Cultivian Ventures — Carmel, IN
- Cultivian Sandbox — AgTech – Chicago
- Data Collective — focused on big data; has made several AgTech investments – SF
- Dom Capital Group — focused on restaurants & hospitality — Chicago
- Edible Ventures — currently raising a fund
- Fair Food Fund — funds good food businesses – Ann Arbor, MI
- Farm2050 — AgTech – CA
- Fresh Source Capital — sustainable food & agriculture – Cambridge, MA
- Fund the Food — student-led fund started by the Kirchner Private Capital Group, focused on food security — Ashville, AL
- Gastronome Ventures — Specialty Food – San Diego
- GreenSoil Investments — products and services focused on smart and efficient use of resources such as land and water – Israel
- Liquid Asset Brands — focused on innovative beverage brands, Liquid Asset invests from seed to series B – Chicago
- Isocline Ventures — Wine & Spirits – Charleston, SC
- Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Green Growth Fund — historically interested in CleanTech; venturing into AgTech now — CA
- Inventages — Life sciences, nutrition, and wellness – Bahamas, London, Hong Kong, Auckland
- Maumee Ventures — Ag innovation – Ohio
- MetaBrand’s Capital Pillar — consumer products with a focus on food and beverage, these guys provide both debt and equity financing and also provide advisory services
- Mokja Ventures — $5M fund for local restaurants – Washington, DC
- New Ground Ventures — FoodTech, Branded Food & Beverage – Westport, CT
- NGEN Partners — NYC
- Powerplant Ventures — flying a little under the radar, these guys have invested in Thrive Market and REBBL; focused on plant-based ventures – LA
- Salt Partners Group — Food & Beverage – SF
- Salt Venture Partners — FoodTech – Boston, San Francisco
- Seed to Growth (S2G) — Chicago – transformative food and agriculture companies
- SOS Ventures — NYC – runs the FoodX accelerator and has made several investments in the food space
- SJF Ventures — AgTech – Durham, NYC, SF
- True North Venture Partners – Chicago
- Valley Oak Investments — Early-stage food, agriculture, and health & wellness companies – CA
- Village Capital — Also invests in ag, ag-tech, and aquaculture
Other VC Groups Making Occasional Food Investments: Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Hospitality Capital (NYC), Maveron LLC, SV Angel, True Ventures, Obvious Collection, Revolution (Steve Case: Sweetgreen), Yellowstone Capital
Corporate Venture Capital
What: Corporate VCs are institutional investors in the sense that they’re investing out of a fund, but their investments are usually bankrolled by a parent corporation who wants to fund innovations in their industry (often because it gives them a line-of-sight into emerging trends and opportunities). Depending on the size of the fund and its strategy, these groups may have been formed as part of the firm’s M&A strategy. Note that CPGs launching an internal fund is a strong and growing trend.
- 7-Ventures — 711’s VC Fund
- Acre Venture Partners — Campbell’s $125M fund.
- 20 Million and Change — Patagonia’s clothing, food, water, energy, and waste fund — Ventura, CA
- Boulder Brands Investment Group — Boulder Brand’s early stage investment group; they’ve got an M&A group, too — Boulder, CO
- Constellation Ventures — Constellation Brand’s venture arm; emphasis on spirits – Victor, NY
- Cultivate Ventures — Hain Celestial’s venture arm.
- Dupont Ventures – Agriculture, etc.
- Eighteen94 — Kellogg’s $100M fund that launched in June, 2017.
- General Mills Ventures (for brands with revenues of $3MM or more)
- Mars Ventures
- Monsanto Growth Ventures – AgTech
- Tyson New Ventures, LLC — Chicago, IL – Tyson Food’s new $150MM fund focused on innovation in its core fresh meats, poultry and prepared foods businesses.
- Unilever Ventures — Unilver’s €450mm fund headquartered in London, with a US office in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
- VEB (Venture & Emerging Brands) — Coca Cola’s fund.
What: Growth Equity shops are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund). Growth Equity firms invest at much later stages, and at much greater amounts, than VC firms. Conceptually, you might think of them as sitting between venture capital and private equity (see below), but growth equity is ultimately a segment of private equity. These investors prefer de-risked investments, invest when companies have tens of millions of dollars in revenues and/or EBITDA, and create value through profitable revenue growth. Hence, growth equity.
- 2x Consumer Products Growth Partners — Chicago
- Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners — agriculture investing; some growth equity, some PE (they’re an RBIC) – NYC
- Anterra Capital — Amsterdam
- Greenmont Capital Partners — Green Consumer Products – Boulder
- Pontifax — FoodTech, AgTech – Los Angeles
What: Private Equity shops are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund) using a combination of equity and debt (also known as leverage). In the eighties, private equity transactions were known as leveraged buyouts, or LBOs. Like other investors, the size of private equity investments are typically a function of fund size and strategy, but these are late-stage buyouts. Turnarounds may or may not be involved.
- Arbor Investments — Food & Beverage — Chicago
- Alliance Consumer Growth — Consumer goods, including food & beverage
- Altamont Capital Partners — San Francisco
- AGR Partners — evergreen fund focused on food & ag value chain – California
- Arlon Capital — middle-market food & agriculture – NYC
- Equilibrium Capital — recent ACM Permanent Crops Fund is focused on … permanent crops — SF & Oregon
- Farmland LP — buys conventional farmland, converts to organic — San Francisco
- First Beverage Ventures — PE arm of First Beverage, focused on “emerging beverage companies” – LA
- Hancock Agricultural Investment Group — row & permanent cropland – Boston
- Homestead Capital — operating farmland – San Francisco
- JH Whitney & Co — invests in some consumer goods & restaurant groups – CT
- Investeco Sustainable Food Fund — Toronto, Canada
- Kainos Capital — Texas
- Kirchner Food Security Group – Agriculture – Ashville, AL
- Paine + Partners — Food & Agribusiness – Chicago, NY, CA
- Rabo Farm — Europe
- Retail & Restaurant Growth Capital Lp — just like it sounds, but they invest $1-3M along side other PE firms and try to add value through consulting services – Texas
- Rural America Fund — growing middle-market rural American companies, principally in agriculture or ag-related businesses – Chicago
- Sherbrooke Capital — branded consumer goods – MA
- Southern Pastures — pasture land – New Zealand
- Swander Pace Capital — consumer products – SF & NJ
- Winona Capital – some branded food products – Chicago
- Verlinvest — consumer-focused fund with a food & beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) theme; shareholders are all from AB-InBev – NYC, Singapore, Paris, Brussels
- VMG Partners — lower-middle market, branded consumer products – San Francisco, Los Angeles
Think this list is missing a group or someone important? Email me.