COVID-19 brought many unprecedented challenges to the agrifood and health ecosystem in 2020. However, from a tech innovation standpoint, it also paved the way for continued innovation opportunities, reflected in several major developments from 2020. This momentum has only continued into 2021, with funding serving as a good indicator. In the first quarter alone, our team logged $2.7 billion in investment across 42 deals:
Note: The figure above is a non-exhaustive representation of Q1 2021 funding for agrifood and health companies. Lux analysts compiled the 42 deals based on news commentaries and industry knowledge.
Foodtech just crossed the $1 billion mark, with the highest number of deals among the three tech verticals. Healthtech came just under $1 billion, but with larger deal sizes. The amount of funding for agtech is still notable, however, at nearly $700 million. To better understand what spaces within the major tech verticals are garnering the most investment, we look back at the top deals within the ecosystem from Q1 2021:
- Anuvia – $103 million Series C: Anuvia treats organic waste from food and agricultural processing to produce a slow-release granular fertilizer called SymTRX. With the funding, Anuvia will expand its product portfolio and increase production capacity (currently 1.2 million tons annually).
- Infarm – $100 million: An in-store indoor farming company, Infarm will use the funding to diversify its crop production beyond leafy greens to include mushrooms, tomatoes, and chilies.
- Little Leaf Farms – $90 million: Little Leaf Farms grows leafy greens out of three hydroponic greenhouses in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The company will use the funds for additional operations in new East Coast markets.
- Pairwise – $90 million Series B: Pairwise uses CRISPR and an omics-related discovery platform to develop production- and consumer-focused traits of fruit and leafy greens. This round allows Pairwise to grow its team and launch a new variety of mustard greens (USDA-approved) by 2022.
- Gro Intelligence – $85 million Series B: Gro Intelligence is developing an AI-based insights platform to help agrifood stakeholders mitigate climate and environmental risk in their decision-making. The latest funding will go toward expanding the capabilities of the company's platform, as well as commercial adoption.
- Livekindly Collective – $335 million: A plant-based holdings company, Livekindly Collective intends to use the funding for continued market expansion (e.g., in the U.S. and China) as well as further acquisitions, investments, and partnerships. So far, it has brought five companies into its fold through acquisition.
- Eat Just – $200 million: Eat Just intends to use the latest funding to support production capacity, R&D, and market expansion. Its flagship product JUST Egg, a plant-based egg substitute, is now available in 20,000 retail locations and 1,000 food service locations, having reportedly sold the equivalent of 100 million eggs to date.
- Ecovative Design – $60 million Series D: A developer of mycelium-based materials, Ecovative will use the new investment to create new applications and scale up existing business units for alternative leather, foam, and proteins. For alternative proteins, the company will continue to focus on its spinoff Atlast as well as the development of cell-based meat scaffolds.
- BlueNalu – $60 million: This convertible note financing will help BlueNalu realize its commercialization plans for cell-based seafood, including the completion of a 40,000 ft2 pilot facility in the U.S.
- Evolve BioSystems – $55 million Series D: The company is developing probiotics based on Bifidobacterium infantis to address infant gut dysbiosis. The funding will help Evolve BioSystems expand its market reach.
Insitro – $400 million Series B: Insitro is an AI-powered drug discovery company with notable pharma partnerships with Gilead and Bristol Myers Squibb for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), respectively. This funding will be used to further boost its capabilities on its target discovery platform.
Strive Health – $140 million Series B: Strive Health is a value-based kidney care company, combining high-touch care, technology, and renal replacement therapy to create a fully integrated, patient-centric experience. The funding will go toward further scaling its services.
Clarify Health – $115 million Series C: Clarify Health is a healthcare analytics vendor that delivers real-world insights to its customers, such as payers, providers, and life science companies. The funding will be used to further scale the company's self-service healthcare analytics cloud and business applications.
Glooko – $30 million Series D: Glooko is a digital diabetes management platform. The company plans on using the funds to broaden its existing diabetes initiative and, notably, explore additional chronic disease care.
Perhaps to no surprise, controlled environment agriculture and alternative proteins reign supreme in agtech and foodtech, respectively. This demonstrates a continued emphasis on food security as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, building off the sizable funding of each space in 2020. For healthtech, AI for drug discovery and healthcare services are capturing the most investment, but expect the lines between clinical and consumer health to increasingly blur.
As the companies across these three verticals look to either scale up, develop new products, or expand into new markets and applications, the critical component to watch is the extent of market pull from buyers, particularly consumers – the necessary piece to make these companies profitable.