Australia’s Tenacious Ventures closes first agrifood tech fund at $27m

Specialist agriculture and food tech venture capital firm Tenacious Ventures has closed its first venture capital fund, securing A$35 millions ($27 million), according to an announcement.

The fund was founded by Sarah Nolet, founder of agrifood tech advisory AgThentic, and Matthew Pryor, co-founder of agtech startup Observant, which was acquired by Jain Irrigation.

Tenacious Ventures supports early-stage companies that develop technologies designed to lower emissions and increase energy efficiency in the agriculture sector.

Tenacious Ventures Fund I, which was launched in 2019 with a target of A$30 million, aims to invest in up to 20 early-stage (seed and Series A) agrifood tech companies that are underpinned by emerging technologies and transformative business models.

As an unconditionally registered fund under the federal government’s ESVCLP scheme, 80% of the capital fund will be deployed into Australian-domiciled startups at the time of investment.

The fund achieved its first close in March 2020 at just over A$20 million, backed by commitments of A$8 million from the Australia Government Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Mike & Annie Cannon-Brookes’ personal investment fund Grok Ventures.

In the past year, Tenacious Ventures has made six investments and raised another A$15 million, all during COVID-19. The fund’s investors include tech and agribusiness executives, family offices, impact investors, and active primary producers.

Sarah Nolet said, “Over the last five years, we’ve seen the ecosystem grow and produce world-class startups. But many were struggling to attract funding – local investors didn’t understand the space or have the networks to diligence opportunities, and offshore investors were too far away.”

Tenacious Ventures’ portfolio includes waste management startup Goterra, and SwarmFarm Robotics, an autonomous agricultural vehicle platform company. Other investments include Nori, a US-based carbon marketplace; Vow, a cellular agriculture company; RapidAIM, a CSIRO-spinout commercializing a digital crop protection platform; and Nowadays, a clean label sustainable protein company.

Australian government CEFC had earlier invested up to $125 million in Qualitas Build-To-Rent Impact Fund (QBIF), Australia’s first property debt fund that seeks to finance the country’s first low emissions build-to-rent residential buildings.

In 2019, CEFC committed up to A$100 million ($70 million) to invest in clean energy via a joint venture fund with infrastructure-focused Ironstone Capital.

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