Investor seeks game changers

Venture fund is looking for agricultural companies providing technology, services or livestock medicine

An Alberta company is looking for good agricultural technology companies in which to invest.

AVAC, an early stage investment company, recently launched Verdex Capital, which will focus on investing in agriculture technology companies.

Verdex Capital is overseeing the Canadian operations of Finistere Ventures’ FVII Fund.

It will travel to conferences and industry events over the next few months to identify possible investment opportunities for the fund, which is expected to eventually total $150 million.

“We’re looking for game changers,” said Michael Raymont, AVAC’s chief executive officer.

Raymont said the new fund is not looking to invest in new companies that create small incremental changes to agriculture.

Instead, it wants technology that will make a significant impact on agriculture.It hopes to soon close a deal to invest in a company with the potential to increase oil yields in soybeans 30 percent.

“We want technology that will last a long time.”

A new non-antibiotic that prevents respiratory disease in cattle is another technology that may turn out to be a good investment for Verdex. Some consumers may be willing to pay 25 to 30 percent more for meat with no antibiotics, he said.

Another possibility is technology to improve supply chain efficiencies to reduce food waste from field to fork.

The money for the first phase of the fund has come from AVAC, Finistere Ventures of San Diego, California, Bayer Crop Sciences and an un-named multinational player.

“It is one of the top three global food and beverage companies in the world,” Raymont said of the un-named company.

He wouldn’t say how much money has already been raised but said enough of the $150 million is available to begin investing in agriculture technology companies. The partners have one year to raise the rest of the money.

The fund will focus on investments in Canada and the United States, but 20 percent of the money will be dedicated to international agricultural investment.

“Now that the fund is closed, they’re on the hunt for companies to invest in,” said Arleigh Vasconcellos, an AVAC communications specialist.

“We’re looking at crop science, animal husbandry, vertical farming, yield improvement, really any sort of technology or innovation within the agricultural technology space that allows for improved efficiency, greater crop yields, better energy consumption and management.”

Vasconcellos said it wasn’t difficult to raise capital for investment in agriculture technology.

“This has become quite an exciting area,” she said.

“Agriculture technology is a real growth area. It is an area that is garnering a lot of interest in the last several years. It is definitely something that people are interested in and they see it as a place to be able to make some good returns.”

Raymont said the first priority will be to look for companies that will maximize the financial return of their investors.

The second will be investing in companies that will make a difference to agriculture.

“We’re making money and doing something useful and good,” he said.

AVAC also invests in early-stage agriculture business, information and communication technologies.

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