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Tenacious Ventures is raising $70 million fund for global agrifood innovation

Words by Casey Dunn

Specialist agrifood venture capital firm, Tenacious Ventures is on a mission to build the agrifood system of tomorrow – supporting early-stage agrifood tech startups that are helping pushing food and agriculture toward a more positive role as a solution for climate change.

Harnessing momentum from its Australian-focused Fund I, oversubscribed at nearly twice its $20 million target, the Tenacious team is thinking bigger – with a supersized $70 million fund that invites co-investors and founders from beyond our borders.    

  • Learn more about Tenacious Ventures $70 million fund, via AgriFutures growAG. here

Co-founder and Managing Partner, Matthew Pryor explained, “There still aren’t many specialist agrifood investors, and we were getting a lot of people outside Australia – from New Zealand, the US and Canada, for example – coming to us wanting the benefit of our investment model. Fund II is a vehicle for us to expand our footprint to include those other key geographies.”

Related organisations

Logo for Tenacious Ventures
Industries
Alternative protein Aquaculture Beef cattle Cereal grains Cotton Cross industry Dairy Eggs Essential oils Forestry Fruits Game Honey bees Nuts Oilseeds Other rural industries Pasture, fodder & feed Pork Poultry Pulse grains Sugar Vegetables Wild catch fisheries

Tenacious Ventures

  • Location

    Global

  • Organisation type

    Investor

Logo for RapidAIM

RapidAIM

  • Location

    Queensland, Australia

  • Organisation type

    Startup or Scaleup or SME

Investing at the intersection of climate impact and digitally native agriculture

Fund II will mirror the investment ethos of its predecessor, with ‘Climate Impact’ as the first filter. “Our agrifood system is facing unprecedented climate challenges,” explained Matthew. “The slower we are to act, the greater the problem agriculture will face. So, we desperately need commercially viable, scalable solutions that address the ecological sustainability and climate resilience of agriculture.”

The second filter is what Matthew calls ‘Digitally Native Agriculture.’ He explained, “More than just applying digital solutions to farming practices, it’s an analogous set of digital transformations along the agrifood value chain that break the old [Industrial era] partitions that constrain the way we produce food. It means decisions around inputs, production, finance, ownership, risk management and insurance no longer need to be framed and constrained by old ways of thinking.”

Or, in other words, “If tech exists that allows me to know everything about my crop before I harvest it, why do I need to wait until I’ve carted it to a silo 80 kilometres away before I know what someone will pay for it?”

SwarmFarm, one of the 10 early-stage Australian companies Tenacious Ventures has backed in Fund I

Delivering impact and return in equal measure

In its short three-year history, Tenacious Ventures has backed 10 early-stage Australian companies, many of which have grown to become startup prodigies. Their success is challenging the notion that ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing requires a trade-off between impact and returns.

“When people apply a broader ESG lens to investing, there is an idea of needing to have a concession around the return; a social justice outcome, for example, where the commercial reality is somewhat at odds with the impact. Our fundamental investment hypothesis is that this is a great area to deliver impact and returns in equal measure,” said Matthew.

Swarmfarm Robotics is a very good example; they now have over a million acres under active management, and that big market footprint comes with a very significant reduction in the use of farm inputs, which helps the environment by lowering the intensity of production.”

A hands-on, high support investment model

To support early-stage startups in a sector renowned for being wickedly complex, Tenacious Ventures applies a high conviction, high support investment model built specifically for agriculture.

The high conviction part is obvious, with a mandate to deliver ‘Climate Impact’ through agrifood transformation. But the high support, sector-specific focus is what sets them apart from other venture capitalists.  

“It means leaning in pretty heavily in the early days,” explained Matthew. “And then working directly with founders on a weekly or fortnightly basis to help them formulate their go-to market strategy and create connections.”

Matthew explained that can be with other investment partners and customers, or, through a monthly Community of Practice Call, with other founders who are walking the journey in parallel.

RapidAim, delivers real-time pest information, from orchards, to farms, to whole regions, for efficient pest management actions

RapidAIM CEO, Nancy Schellhorn attests to the value of Tenacious Ventures’ support going beyond just capital. “They’re a great lead investor because they really understand the details of the agricultural domain: where are the entry points; what are the traditional alignments and relationships; what's likely to fly and what's not?”

“And they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work – giving their time, offering advice and a sounding board which is so important in the early days. But they’re also willing to let us write our own playbook. I’ve never felt like they’re running our business,” said Nancy.

Investment from Tenacious Ventures helped RapidAIM close its Series A and release its first real-time precision pest monitoring solution to market, RapidFLY, specialising in detecting Queensland Fruit Fly. It’s also enabling Nancy’s team to speed its research and product development pipeline to build new products that their customers are clamouring for: RapidMOTH, designed for detecting Codling Moth and Macadamia Nut Borer, and the soon to be released daily regional pests forecasts.

Next step: global scaling of a proven investment formula

The success of its portfolio companies has given Tenacious Ventures confidence that their investment model works – and that it’s globally applicable. But while Fund II’s focus will wider than just Australia, Matthew expects it is our history of agrifood innovation that will attract foreign co-investors.

“Through our Rural Research & Development Corporation (RDC) model, Australia has three decades of research into climate adaptive agriculture. We’re world experts because we’ve had to be. But now, every country in the world needs to know more about climate adaptive agriculture.” 

“For multinationals, being an investor in Fund II is a way to be directly connected to a very innovative ecosystem without necessarily having to put direct investment capability ‘boots on the ground’.”

Fund I attracted cornerstone investors like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Grok Ventures, and Matthew expects Fund II’s co-investors to be similarly mission-aligned.

-          Learn more about Tenacious Ventures $70 million Fund II, via AgriFuturs growAG. here

“It might be a corporate agribusiness player that knows these transformations are coming, and wants an ‘inside track’ with startups that – once they get to scale – could be important partners. Being at the pointy end without having to be directly involved in R&D and innovation can be a big advantage – and that is just as true for Australian agribusinesses as it is for multinationals.”

Seeking founders who have the ‘tiger by the tail’

Fund II maintains Tenacious Ventures’ focus on supporting pre-seed or seed stage founders, who may have received funding from angel investors, but haven’t yet participated in a formal fundraise. Generally, they’ll have formed the company and built a core team, but may not yet have paying customers.

What they will have, though, is the “tiger by the tail,” as Matthew puts it. “It's very important that we can see evidence that they have their own true believers: someone who can see that this founder – if they can deliver what they say they will – could change the way I do business. Showing a problem-solving insight that's unique and differentiated is a really strong signal for us.”

If you are a sophisticated and wholesale investor who is passionate about the future of food and agriculture or an early-stage startup building solutions at the intersection of digitally-native agriculture and climate solutions, then learn more about Tenacious Ventures $70 million Fund II here

 

Disclaimer: Please note AgriFutures Australia has not verified whether Tenacious Ventures Pty Ltd holds an Australian financial services licence, and that interested users should conduct their own diligence and obtain independent advice prior to pursuing the specific commercial opportunity.