New Money Pouring In For New Ideas In Agricultural Technology

May 13, 2016

Corn field in Greene County.
Credit Leoneda Inge

It used to be hard to convince blue chip investors to put millions of dollars into agricultural technology startups.

But times are changing. Last week, a new business accelerator launched in Research Triangle Park with $11.5 million.

AgTech Accelerator CEO John Dombrosky said The Triangle is the right place for this model.

“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be the global epicenter for all things ag-tech," Dombrosky said.  "We have the right talent, we have the right research, we have the right large company presence.  We have all the conditions necessary.”

Dombrosky said historically, agriculture has been a "niche" in the investor world.

"It has been kind of a sleepy and underserved area that is perceived as difficult to make money in, or seen as so big it's hard to find ways to create new companies around," Dombrosky said. 

AgTech Accelerator is positioned to identify, form, finance and manage the most promising emerging agriculture companies and build products that deliver strong returns, he said.

Some of the AgTech investors include Alexandria Venture Investments, Syngenta Ventures, Hatteras Venture Partners and Pappas Capital.

Organizers say they hope to raise between $25 million and $30 million dollars by the end of 2016.

“We sat back as a firm and said, hey look, for us, we should be part of this. It’s an important part of what’s happening in the state," said Art Pappas, Managing General Partner at Pappas Capital.

The amount of money invested in agricultural technology companies worldwide nearly doubled between 2014 and 2015, attracting $4.6 billion dollars, according to a report in The New York Times.

AgTech research partners include major research institutions in the Triangle, like Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State. Penn State and the University of California, Davis are also on the list.