With $20M, RTP AgTech Group Looks To Invest

Nov 23, 2016

John Dombrosky, CEO of Research Triangle Park-based AgTech Accelerator
Credit AgTech Accelerator

A new Research Triangle Park group is making hay in the world of agriculture biotechnology investing.

Called the AgTech Accelerator, the group is led by industry veteran John Dombrosky and will now shift from fundraising to finding quality companies to invest in, and finding strong management teams to lead those companies.

Launched in May, the Accelerator has now raised $20 million from private investors that include agriculture technology giants like Bayer and Syngenta. With that gunpowder, Dombrosky and his team will now look for investment in startups in agriculture biotechnology. These kinds of companies include startups to engineer new kinds of seeds, but genetic modifications represent just a portion of the larger industry that includes animal health, pest control and more.

Consider RTP-based AgBiome, which is "using new knowledge of the plant-associated microbiome to create innovative products for agriculture," according to its website. The company raised $34.5 million from private investors in 2015.

Historically, the agtech industry clustered around the major companies like DuPont or Monsanto. However, with these major companies forming mega mergers, it could open opportunities for startups to get in the game, according to Dombrosky. "With industry consolidation, there could be an emerging pocket of really talented people that might be willing to try something a bit more entrepreneurial; that which they wouldn’t have been otherwise ready for, or willing to do," he said.

Investors are beginning to take note. Agtech companies globally raised nearly $9 billion in the past 30 months, according to AgFunder. Experts in the field expect it to follow a path not unlike the pharmaceutical industry, though to a smaller scale.

RTP makes logical sense as the home base for the AgTech Accelerator. According to the Council for Economic Development, more than 50 entrepreneurial agricultural technology companies call North Carolina home, more than half of which are based in the Triangle.

"This is a really exciting time across all sectors of agriculture given the active consolidation of the large, traditional players," said Kristina Burow, managing director at ARCH Venture Partners and member of the AgTech Accelerator board. "Talent pools are being unlocked and market forces are triggering the opportunities."

Triangle area venture capital groups Hatteras Venture Partners and Pappas Capital have also invested in the accelerator.

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