Agri-FoodTech Investment in Europe: boomed in 2019, what is in store for 2020?

Valeria Vlasova
3 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our life and Agri-FoodTech is not an exception. The global food system faced up with new challenges, and food and ag technologies prove critical to feeding the world during this time. This review is an attempt to shed some light on what has happened to the European Agri-FoodTech industry in 2020.

Trends in Agri-FoodTech Investments

The obvious uptick in consumer demand for food delivery during the pandemic provided Restaurant Marketplaces with the biggest part of all investments in the Agri-FoodTech segment in Europe (21%). The second largest category (16%) is eGrocery startups which pulled in over $545 million in investment last year (1). With the growth of eGrocery the need for Agri-FoodTech innovation is greater than ever. 

Another category of Agri-FoodTech which continues to grow even in the hard times is Ag Biotechnology. Europe remains one of the leaders in this category and shows positive results in 2020 with a 21% uptick in investment value to $277 million year over-year (1). The key interest of this sphere is a search for biological alternatives to chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers. Best results were made by Spain’s PlantResponse Biotech with $77 million in debt and equity funding, and French companies M2I Life Sciences and DNA Script (1). 

Novel Farming Systems is the application of modern technologies for the development of new agricultural techniques. One of ‘entomoculture’ (insect farming) startups Ynsect (Paris, France) received a $125 million investment – the world’s biggest Agri-FoodTech funding round outside of the US last year (1). The pandemic has accelerated and amplified calls for more localized food systems, therefore vertical agriculture systems grew investors' interests too. German company Infarm with its technology of vertical, internet-connected growing cabinets raised $100 million last year (1) and attracted attention to a new way of farming.

Interesting statistic was in the Innovative Food category which had a breakout year raising a huge $270 million for European startups (1). Cultured meat, novel ingredients, and plant-based proteins are promising dairy alternatives, and companies like Perfect Day Foods (Ireland) with their dairy-free ice cream and ingredients have raised the year’s two largest rounds in the category ($140 million and $35 million) (1).

Leaders of Agri-FoodTech Investments

2020 has just finished and the final numbers of annual statistics of Agri-FoodTech investments by countries is still in progress. Despite the fact that the whole world was put on hold this year, some trends were outlined in 2019. 

Nearly 80% of all funding raised across the continent in 2019 was made up by the top five countries – the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany.

The absolute leader of the European Agri-FoodTech funding charts in 2019 was the UK with $1.1 billion total, tallying more than the next two contenders – Spain and France – combined (1). The UK owes this fascinating result to Deliveroo – an online food delivery company – which raised a bumping $575 million round (1). Moreover, as it was mentioned before, the Restaurant Marketplace was the largest category of investments in Europe in 2020, so it definitely responded to this enormous consumer demand during the continuing pandemic.

Excluding that Deliveroo deal, the UK, France, and Spain are roughly equal in funding (1). $367 million or 10% of all Agri-FoodTech funding in Europe raised collectively by startups in the Nordic region, and Belgian crop protection startup Biotalys (formerly Agrosavfe) raised $38 million (1). Portuguese aquaculture venture OceanoFresco raised a $3 million funding round (1).

The Bottom Line

The impact of the continuing pandemic on the Agri-FoodTech industry is a subject for further study. Some categories suffered more, for others the pandemic became an acceleration point. The future after lockdown restrictions ease is still vague. But while there are companies with their ideas and innovations, supported by venture capital, the global Agri-FoodTech industry could be ready to face future challenges without ruffle or excitement.