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A couple of the team members from Vivent had the chance recently to attend a forum, Investment in Agriculture: Opportunities Across The Value Chain, organized by INSEAD’s Swiss Alumni Association. A diverse panel of expert investors and entrepreneurs shared their views on questions like:

  • Where does the “Green” revolution stand?
  • Will technology be the answer for food security?
  • How to invest in the space?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities?

The fact that INSEAD’s alumni association chose to run the event and that it turned out to be so well attended, with more than 40 people present, indicates the rising level of interest in investment in agriculture. I personally think this is driven by the hype around ag-tech investment but it also makes sense given the importance of a secure food chain.

A couple of key learnings that you may find interesting if you are considering investing or working in this sector.

Ag-tech starts ups, like biotech, take a little longer to generate income than typical tech start-ups. Growers are, of course, conservative as they often only have once chance a year to get their crops right but they are keen to embrace new technology if you can demonstrate the benefits.

Unlike lots of sectors the demand for agriculture products is well known and predictable – we all need to eat, however pricing is pretty volatile so investors in agriculture often realize that they need to take long term positions. This can be helpful for entrepreneurs who aren’t looking for a quick exit.

According to the panelists some hot areas in ag-tech right now include:

  • Financiers supporting the ag-tech sector. There’s growing interest right now but no dedicated ecosystem for ag-tech start-ups.
  • Aquaculture is growing fast to support higher demand for protein and there are many opportunities to make improvements to the health and sustainability of fish farming. Think about growing some fish food.
  • The logistics of the food chain is often long, complex and the source of big losses. Any improvements provide huge value added and consumers are showing lots of interest in the providence of their food.

A final thought regarding PhytlSigns. We are aware of increasing activity in the bio-sensors sector driven by technological advancements like miniaturisation of electronics and the application of data mining and sophisticated data analysis tools.  As a business we are delighted with insights we are gaining right now using these tools and we are excited about sharing them with our clients and collaborators.

It’s fantastic to see the growth in interest in agriculture from our fellow INSEAD alumni.  We met some interesting new business contacts and are grateful to have shared the insights of the expert panel.

The event was held in Geneva on October 17, 2017 and was moderated by Pan Pan, INSEAD MBA’03J

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