How Do Corporates and Investors View Opportunities in Animal AgTech

Ahead of the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit in San Francisco, March 18, four leading investors share their insights about investment challenges and opportunities in the animal agtech space.

Why is animal agtech exciting from an investment perspective? Why has it previously been relatively underfunded compared to neighbouring industries and why is it gaining traction now?

Mike Velings, Co-Founder & Partner, AQUA-SPARK, NETHERLANDS,
Panel Session: The Rise of Aquaculture: Transforming the Industry through Digitization and Alternative Protein Feeds
Aquaculture is expected to at least double in size as a sector, globally. Agtech in aquaculture is a major accelerator for increased efficiency, sustainability, transparency and growth. Our goal at Aqua-Spark is to show that healthy, affordable and sustainable aquaculture is possible with similar or better returns than traditional methods. Agtech is one of our main tools to help drive behavioural change and drive real long-term sustainable growth.
Brett Morris, Principal, TECHACCEL, USA
Panel Session: Investor Debate: How Corporate Venture Funds and VCs view the Opportunities in Animal AgTech
There are positive industry and sub-sector trends in both food and companion animals as the population is rising and becoming wealthier, the demand for protein is increasing, and pet ownership and quality of life becomes more important around the world. At the same time, natural resource constraints (arable land and fresh water), globalization of the food supply, and producer productivity pressures continue to drive a need for more efficient food production. Poultry and fish should offer exciting investment opportunities as the two top proteins globally. Aquaculture is particularly attractive as the fastest growing sector in the livestock industry with the lowest medicalization rate relative to other meat proteins.
Additionally, death and disease in food animals is still a large problem, with estimates that 20% of production animals are lost annually. This trend combined with pushes from regulators, consumers, and companies across the supply chain to eliminate the use of growth promoting antibiotics influences the demand for new livestock medicines and vaccines. Improving health and lowering mortality rates should lead to better yields as long as the cost and method of treatment fits into existing production practices. The threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria should also lead to an enhanced focus on food safety and security.
Animal health has previously been underfunded for three primary reasons:
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Smaller market relative to human health and agriculture
  • Uncertainty around regulatory guidelines and timelines. The underfunding has also created opportunity for investors focused in the space as there is limited competition and greater access to deals.
Maarten Goossens, Co-Founder & Principal, ANTERRA CAPITAL, Netherlands
Panel Sessions: Corporate Perspective: Building the AgTech Innovation Landscape for the Livestock Industry / Investor Debate: How Corporate Venture Funds and VCs view the Opportunities in Animal AgTech
High on the wish list for several stakeholders are alternatives to antibiotics. There are two classes to look at as the industry moves from curation to prevention. Firstly, vaccines which is an established class with global sales of $6.5bn p.a. forecasted to grow at a 6% CAGR (2017-2022). Secondly, probiotics which has the potential to become the next therapeutic class in animal health and nutrition as we gain a better understanding of the microbiome.
Digital technology is another segment to watch where we’ve seen notable exits recently. Vets First Choice, a platform that allows vets to outsource their pharmacy services and offers practice level and patient analytics and insights, was valued at $2.2bn as it merged with Henry Schein’s animal health unit to form Covetrus. Antelliq, an animal intelligence solution provider using software and sensor technology, was acquired by Merck for $3.7bn to extend its animal health product offering into digital services.
Mareese Keane, THRIVE AgTech Platform Director, SVG VENTURES & THRIVE, USA
Panel Session: Smart Livestock Farming to Bridge the Efficiency Gap: Empowering Farmers through Digital Insights
We see opportunities in the development of disease prevention and treatment products tackling antibiotic resistance issues and the application of gene editing technology within plants and soils to improve the available nutrition in livestock production. Alternative meats may also prove to be an exciting area over the next few years. Another is the development of data analytics in the animal health space for precision livestock. Farmers now have the capability of utilizing sensors to monitor a host of health-related data points, which enables them to respond and intervene with more accuracy and efficiency. On the funding side, investors are more likely receptive to data-driven results, which will continue to drive the pace of investment in the space.