Radicle Accelerator Fund Launches to Nurture AgTech Innovation

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Radicle, a new accelerator fund focused on agricultural ventures, is launching today with plans to seed and nurture the next generation of agtech companies addressing global farming problems.

The new accelerator will have locations in multiple states and around the world. Radicle, which takes its name from the botany term for the part of a plant embryo that develops into the primary root, was founded by a mix of agricultural investment and industry heavyweights. Agtech investment firm Finistere Ventures; private equity firm Cloud Break Advisors; and Israeli venture capital firm OurCrowd contributed to the new accelerator. From industry, Bayer (ETR: BAYN) and DuPont Pioneer are throwing in their support. Radicle representatives plan to discuss their plans for the accelerator during AgTech Week 2016, an ag investment conference being held in San Francisco this week.

Radicle says it will focus on challenges to farmer productivity, sustainability, and quality in food and agriculture. The areas where the accelerator is scoping for promising technology include genomics, seeds, biological products that can be used for crop protection, and big data analytics with applications in precision agriculture.

The new accelerator says it already has partnerships with institutions in Australia, Canada, and Israel. Before making an investment, Radicle says it screens technologies and can quickly vet and validate technologies through its farm connections.

So far, Radicle has closed on $6 million in funding, and the accelerator expects its pot will reach up to $15 million. Arama Kukutai, partner at Finistere Ventures, said in a statement that seed investment and support through Radicle will help prepare companies for a Series A round of financing faster and with less capital. “We expect a deeper and better prepared pipeline of new agtech companies to emerge,” he said.

The Radicle launch is just the latest in a string of efforts across the country that aim to bring financing and support to early-stage companies developing technologies for the agriculture and food industries. In Michigan, the Great Lakes Ag Technology Business Incubator is helping farmers turn their ag ideas into businesses. Earlier this year, Finistere teamed up with Kinston, NC-based International Farming Corporation to form Willow Hill Ventures, a fund intended to fill the Series B financing gap facing many agtech startups while also providing those startups with access to farm land for testing new technologies. And earlier this week, Kellogg Company (NYSE: K) launched 1894 Capital, a venture capital fund that will invest in startups working in areas such as foods, ingredients, and packaging.

But Radicle’s plans more closely resemble the Research Triangle Park-based AgTech Accelerator, which shares an industry partner in Bayer. Last month, AgTech Accelerator unveiled $11.5 million in funding along with plans to scout out promising technologies at partner universities across the country and build a business around them. Those technologies could become independent companies or they could find a place with Bayer or Syngenta (NYSE: SYT), the North Carolina accelerator’s other industry partner.

Radicle’s physical presence includes sites in San Diego; Palo Alto, CA; Research Triangle Park; parts of the Midwest; and Israel. But the accelerator isn’t limited to those sites and it says it will offer agtech startups connections to universities such as Texas A&M, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Queensland in Australia.

Radicle will also link companies to research institutions including Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Besides investment, companies accepted into the accelerator will receive advice, mentoring, and industry connections. Companies that graduate from Radicle will be eligible for follow-on financing from the backers of the accelerator.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Heather Smithers under a Creative Commons license.