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A red-hot year for VC investment in agtech – MLT Aikins

Despite a year of economic uncertainty and aggressive rate hikes wreaking havoc on financial markets, venture capital (VC) investments in Canada’s agribusiness thrived in 2022.

According to data from Canadian Venture Capital and Private, agribusiness VC investments were already 33% higher at mid-year than in all of 2020 and on track to surpass 2021 records, both in terms of deal size and volume Transaction Value Public Company.

Emmertech announces investments

Regina-based Conexus Venture Capital Inc. has been very active in 2022, contributing to 13 funding rounds during the first half of the year. In 2021, Conexus launched the $60 million Emmertech fund, focused solely on opportunities in Canadian agtech and agribusiness innovation.

Over the past year, Emmertech has continued to provide capital and announced investments in several Canadian companies at the forefront of agtech innovation, including:

  • Led a $34 million Series C funding round for Ontario-based Vive Crop Protection, which develops products aimed at improving crop efficiency and sustainability
  • Led a $3.1 million seed funding round for Vancouver-based BarrelWise Technologies Ltd., developing data systems to improve efficiency in winemaking
  • Led a $1.7 million seed funding round for Ontario-based IntelliCulture, which develops technology to monitor and optimize farm equipment and crop yields

Tall Grass Ventures launches

In September, Calgary-based Tall Grass Ventures launched, Canada’s newest agtech VC fund focused on pre-Series A funding for startups focused on globally applicable agtech innovations.

Tall Grass draws on its experience in agriculture, technology and finance to invest both experience and capital. Having built companies, brought innovations to market and spent most of their careers in agriculture, the Tall Grass team understands the difficulties founders face in building market-defining companies.

“As previous founders, investors and builders, we know firsthand some of the challenges of building an early-stage agtech company, particularly in western Canada,” said Wilson Acton, managing partner of Tall Grass Ventures, in a statement. “Bringing experience and capital to agtech startups is exactly what Tall Grass is focused on.”

Tall Grass plans to help the next generation of Western Canadian agtech companies to grow rapidly as the industry transforms with increasing adoption of data, connectivity and sustainability.

Growing support for VC investments

The federal government gave VC investors a boost in October when it invested $350 million in four VC fund-of-funds managers through the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative.

“We are committed to helping innovative companies and entrepreneurs get the investment they need to grow, enter new markets and thrive,” said Mary Ng, Minister for International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and economic development.

Manitoba also aims to encourage investment in early stage companies. In April, the province announced a plan to allocate $50 million to privately managed VC funds and improve its small business venture capital tax credit for VC investors.

As climate change, global supply chain disruptions and a growing population continue to pressure the agribusiness industry, we expect innovative agtech companies across western Canada to become increasingly attractive to VC investors everywhere.

MLT Aikins’ lawyers were pleased to advise Conexus on the formation of Emmertech and on the fund’s investments. MLT Aikins also advised Tall Grass Ventures on its formation. If you are looking for investment opportunities in Western Canadian agtech, the lawyers in our private equity and venture capital group are happy to help.

This article will appear in our 2022 Farming & Food Year in Review. Download the free eBook.

Calgary attorney Kristal Allen will be speaking at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit taking place March 14-15 in San Francisco. On March 14, Kristal will participate in the panel discussion “Commercialization Spotlight: Building a Biologicals Business to Scale”. Find out more about the conference.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and does not purport to exhaust all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should only be construed in the context of specific circumstances, so these materials should not be construed or construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice on a particular situation.

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