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Is Investing The Key To Feeding 10 Billion People and Fighting Climate Change?

What is entrepreneurism if not being a problem solver? Well, the world is about to face one of the biggest problems its ever faced as we confront the realities of feeding 10 billion people

Photos courtesy of S2G Venture

What is entrepreneurism if not being a problem solver? Well, the world is about to face one of the biggest problems its ever faced as we confront the realities of feeding 10 billion people while worrying about increased climate concerns and improved diets. Sanjeev Krishan the Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director, for S2G Ventures, a venture fund investor in the food and agriculture industry, believes the best way to solve this problem is by supporting the entrepreneurs who are helping farmers.


Q&A

Karn Manhas (the founder and CEO of Terramera), a company that S2G invested in, wrote an article for Ag Funder Network about why farming needs a new image. He said, “Somewhere along the line, we started to devalue farmers and take them for granted, but it’s hard to think of a career that’s more important for our collective survival. Feeding the planet isn’t simplistic or base, it’s multifaceted, complex and sophisticated. Farmers are the original experimenters, hackers, makers and problem-solvers; they’re biologists, chemists, engineers, entrepreneurs and inventors. Perhaps if we talked about them like that, young people would be inspired to continue their legacy, and proudly bring the field into the future.”

With that in mind, how are the businesses you’re working with changing the nature of farming?

We invest in some of the leading ag-tech companies that are helping farmers gain better insights into their farming methods, as well as providing a way for farmers to connect directly with consumers, which can help them capture more of the consumer dollar. These businesses provide for increased regenerative land and resource management, new business model innovations, including new financing models as well as encouraging adoption of new technologies while minimizing the risks to the farmer.

Talk about some of the companies you’ve worked with and the work they’re doing.

We have over 15 companies serving the farmer, helping them make better decisions that drive higher profitability. We believe it is not just about yield per acre, but we are moving to a market where farmers should be measured on profit per acre. As an example, Midwestern BioAg has been a leader in working with farmers on helping them transition some of their acreage to organic or specialty crops. Transitions like this are not easy but can be incredibly profitable to the farmer if they have the right partner to hold their hand through this process. MBA has a 30-year track record of working in the organic market. They bring significant lessons learned in helping farmers grow their business. 

Another example would be Growers Edge and their work in providing financial tools like lending and insurance to farmers. Through their unique product toolkit, they de-risk new technology adoption to farmers and increase farm profitability.

What are you looking for in successful entrepreneurs and companies?

Agriculture is a marathon, not a sprint. Entrepreneurs and early-stage companies go through ups and downs during their growth and we look for entrepreneurs that understand that it will not be a straight line forward. In order for there to be broad adoption of new technologies, we need broad industry pull through to encourage innovation across the supply chain. We’re looking for people passionate and determined to solve some of the most pressing issues facing farmers and the agrifood sector. Successful entrepreneurs and companies bring tools and innovations that have demonstrated an authentic value proposition that solves real problems in an acceptable timeline.

In your opinion, what work being done right now by a company is the most exciting?

Formed in 2012, Benson Hill Biosciences is unlocking the natural genetic diversity of plants to develop healthier and more sustainable crops while simultaneously delivering a solution that meets changing consumer preferences. Their cutting-edge technology platform, CropOS™, combines machine learning and big data with genome editing and plant biology to dramatically accelerate and simplify the product development process and increase margins for farmers.

Why do you believe supporting entrepreneurs is the best way to solve the upcoming food crisis?

Entrepreneurs are bold problem-solvers and innovators who are willing to take on some of the most complex global issues. Existing farming practices are not sustainable, farmer profitability is at a historically low level while farmer productivity is plateauing and the commodity-based system is not meeting consumer demands. Farm productivity is expected to worsen by 9 percent to 16 percent on average as our planet grows warmer (FAO, 2017). Supporting entrepreneurs will be core to bringing solutions from concept to reality and addressing a sustainable and profitable agrifood system.

Where are the next big innovations in ag-tech going to come from?

We anticipate the most forward-looking and advanced innovations that deliver quantifiable long-term solutions will be born out of farmers and agriculture retailers working together more closely. Previously operating in isolation, together these groups have the potential to bring real-world experience, technological innovation and a deep understanding of consumer insights to develop integrational solutions.   

After working with some of the most innovative ag-tech companies in the world, what do you think the farm will look like 20 years from now?

Predictive analytics will be what every farmer will rely on to make day to day decisions. Recognizing that climate-related disasters have increased by 100 percent over the last two decades (NOAA, 2018), weather data will continue to be an important input in decision making. In addition, automation will become the standard. Finally, we see a world where farmers are rewarded based on profit per acre rather than yield per acre.

hat is entrepreneurism if not being a problem solver? Well, the world is about to face one of the biggest problems its ever faced as we confront the realities of feeding 10 billion people while worrying about increased climate concerns and improved diets. Sanjeev Krishan, the Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director, for S2G Ventures, a venture fund investor in the food and agriculture industry, believes the best way to solve this problem is by supporting the entrepreneurs who are helping farmers.

The Forecast Of The Climate

1980-2018 Year-to-Date United States Billion Dollar Disaster Event Frequency (CPI Adjusted)
Since 1980, the U.S. has experienced 241 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total effect of these 241 events exceeds $1.6 trillion. As the climate changes, these severe weather experiences will only get worse. In 2018, the U.S. experienced 14 separate billion-dollar disaster events. As Krishan pointed out, predictive analytics will be more important than ever as bad weather can destroy a farmer’s season.

About S2G

S2G Ventures (Seed to Growth) is a multi-stage venture fund investing in food and agriculture. The fund’s mission is to catalyze innovation to meet consumer demands for healthy and sustainable food. S2G has identified sectors across the food system that are ripe for change and is building a multi-stage portfolio, including seed, venture and growth-stage investments. Core areas of interest for S2G are agriculture, ingredients, infrastructure and logistics, IT and hardware, food safety and technology, retail and restaurants and consumer brands. For more information about S2G, visit S2GVentures.com or connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.    

Sanjeev Krishnan, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director, S2G Ventures.
Sanjeev Krishnan, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director, S2G Ventures.

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