Agritech is the use of technology to advance and improve the productivity and efficiency of agriculture. 2020 saw a record amount of investment in agritech companies: $22.3bn. Seedrs, a leading equity crowdfunding platform, identifies agritech as the next big start-up investment opportunity as there has been a shift in consumer behaviour. People want to know where their food is coming from, what impact the food they buy has on the environment, as well as a realisation of how over-reliant on global food supplies we have become.
Fragility of Food Supply
There has been much on the news about the lack of resilience in the UK’s food supply chain and how reliant we have become on international imports. With nearly fifty percent of the food being imported, the UK has been experiencing supply shortages as Covid19 has brought global bottlenecks in the supply lines. The supply of food is also going to be influenced by the effects of climate change. Changes in the weather, causing catastrophes, floods and droughts will affect the spaces in which people live as well as the amount of available space to successfully grow produce.
Becoming self-sufficient in the food supply is not going to be possible without help from technology. This can allow agritech start-ups to augment and complement traditional agriculture to grow some of the food we currently import more sustainably.
One of the most promising technologies in this area is vertical farming. Harvest London is one of the innovative companies harvesting food on a made-to-order basis in controlled urban farms. They built the first vertical and hydroponic farm in London in 2016 growing over 100 different edible plants. In 2019, they completed a successful funds raise through Seedrs of £402,060 from 454 investors, with an initial target of £325,000, and in 2020 they opened a second farm in Leyton, East London.
Square Mile Farms
As the popularity of urban farming continues to rise, another start-up Square Mile Farms, has noticed large employers rethinking the function and layout of their workspaces post-Covid. With a lot of people still working from home, their Office Farming model ‘creates inviting spaces, attracting talent back into the workplace’ (seedrs.com).
Its business model is based on installing vertical farms in workplaces with an estimated market size of £143m in London, and £621m in the UK., and moving into the inner cities, Square Mile Farms has positioned itself well for a growing market. In 2020, with a crowdfunding goal of £200,010, they doubled their target, raising £504,118 from 891 investors on Seedrs.
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