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Main Sequence Ventures ‘Feed 10b people’ challenge seeks innovators

Words by Megan Woodward | Photo: Partner of Main Sequence Ventures, Phil Morle by Nick Cubbin

According to the World Resources Institute there’s a 56% gap between the amount of food we make today and what we're going to need globally by 2050. Main Sequence Ventures is leading the charge to source innovative solutions to this very challenge: 'Feed 10 billion People'.  

And the leader of the ambitious undertaking and Partner of Main Sequence Ventures, Phil Morle believes ‘radical collaboration’ is going to serve up the answers.  

As Asia Pacific's biggest deep tech venture capital firm, co-founded by CSIRO, Main Sequence Ventures (MSV) was designed to address the ‘Valley of Death’ between research and commercialisation. Amplifying connections between industry research and infrastructure – is part of MSV’s DNA – to accelerate deep technology development, then reinvest the economic returns from commercialisation back into science.  

Now they’re going one step further, hunting out researchers, innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who are developing ideas that could become globally disruptive companies in tackling the ever-present issue of feeding the citizens of the world on a planet fast running out of room to produce it.  

Enter, the “Feed 10b People” challenge. Phil Morle is the captain of the challenge ship and he’s steering it to as many big thinkers as possible.  

  • Have a great idea? Submit enquiries for the ‘Feed 10b People’ challenge, via AgriFutures growAG. here.  

“The only way we’re going to be able to solve a problem the size of this one is to work together,” said Phil. “A lot of the time people suffocate an idea with an embrace and do it all alone, holding onto the belief that they don’t need anybody else and they’re smarter than everybody else. 

“But when we start a proper conversation and get other people involved that’s when we start opening up other nodes to make it happen. 

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“I call this ‘radical collaboration’ and I think it’s the theme for this project. It disarms people when they realise how forthcoming the Feed 10b project is with information and the willingness to share. That’s where the opportunity is and that’s how we’re going to be able to understand what's possible.”

Phil said the greater the collaboration is, the greater the value proposition is for whoever is ultimately going to buy it. 

“For example, let’s say a company is developing a new way of measuring soil carbon and that's what they do and they're just really, really good at it. No doubt that is an incredibly valuable piece of technology for the market that we all need to build today but we need to ask more questions,” he said. 

“We need to know, ‘what else is going on around this?’ And what other things does a farmer need access to at the same time for this particular development to work to its full capacity. That’s how we like to think about it, in terms of the projects that we invest in. 

“We’re looking for all the puzzle pieces, not just the corners.” 

Looking over the ‘trench of tradition’ into innovation for all 

Phil is keen to make the point that MSV isn’t focusing on solutions that would see animal agriculture end. 

“It’s important to highlight that because we know it will always have a place, but we also have a belief that we need to find other ways that can sustainably feed the global population alongside traditional industry,” he said. 

 

Dr James Petrie, Scientist and Co-founder of Nourish Ingredients, a company using synthetic biology to create tailored, animal-free fats and oils which Main Sequence Ventures has invested in | Photos by Rachael Lenehan Photography.

As part of the “Feed 10b People” project, MSV has already invested in seven companies, including 'Nourish’ – a company making animal-free specialty fats and oils – and ‘Lumachain’ – a platform delivering a comprehensive end-to-end solution for food supply chains, incentivising farmers, and processors to create high-quality, ethically-produced products from farm to fork. 

RELATED: Animal-free fermented fats and oils give alternative proteins a kick of flavour 

Phil said the companies were considered sound investments not only because the technology offers solutions that will ensure humans can eat in the face of climate change, but also because they are new industries that have the potential to offer significant revenue streams for Australian farmers. 

“This could look like making a meat product with soybeans or even making milk by feeding sugar to a brewery and brewing it like beer,” said Phil.

“There are so many opportunities, and we need to grow and help agriculture understand the dollar opportunities there to lean into. We just need to look over the trench of tradition and look at what we could be doing on top of what’s already in place.” 

RELATED: Bayer Crop Science embraces open innovation  

Want to be the next MSV investment? Keep science at the core. 

When it comes to the ultimate question of what qualifies as a great MSV investment Phil said the answer is straight forward. 

“It simply needs to have science at the core – something which has been uniquely discovered,” he explained. 

  • Submit your science-based innovation for the ‘Feed 10b People’ challenge, via growAG. here.  

“It doesn’t matter if that’s come through a researcher, an entrepreneur, a farmer or even a food company. 

“Further to that, everything that we do has a connection with Australian publicly funded research, but that doesn't need to exist before we invest, it may be something that we facilitate as part of our investment. 

“That means there's some special kernel of value which is being delivered by some IP or a patent or a science team, all using resources to scale up something.” 

That doesn’t mean it has to be close to perfect, though. In fact, Phil said MSV is more than comfortable being brought into the mix when something is still raw and unpolished. 

RELATED: GRDC’s Accelerator Program is open to support grains focussed innovations   

“If anything over the course of our history as a firm, we've gone earlier and earlier and earlier again,” he said. 

“Deep tech companies, or as we call them, science driven companies, really do take a village to build the company, so the earlier we have conversations, the earlier we can link up that idea to someone else who can help get it moving. 

“Things can get trapped when you’re trying to validate a scientific program at times and then things get stuck. But if we can have ongoing conversations and say ‘why don't you speak to that person’ or ‘let's have a workshop and bring these people in’ it starts to form up. 

According to the World Resources Institute there’s a 56% gap between the amount of food we make today and what we're going to need globally by 2050. Main Sequence Ventures is leading the charge to source innovative solutions to this very challenge: 'Feed 10 billion People'.

“That’s very compelling to venture capital because it means things become investable quite quickly in terms of the practicalities of it.” 

Phil said MSV will invest amounts anywhere from $500,000 to $15 million per round. 

“The perfect company for us is one that we invest in at the beginning and we follow that journey all the way through and we just pile resources onto it over time,” he said. 

“People should never feel like it’s too early to contact us. Early is exactly when we want to hear from them.”  

Submit your idea to Main Sequence Ventures’ ‘Feed 10 billion People’ challenge, via growAG. here.