Astanor Ventures launches Europe’s largest impact fund at €274.6 million to back agri-food and ocean tech startups

Astanor Ventures has closed an approx €274.5 million global fund to help revolutionise the food and agriculture sector – putting the health of people and ecosystems back at the heart of the food system, just as the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need for a more resilient food supply chain and raised urgent questions about food security.

Astanor is a multi-stage tech investor that unites deep knowledge and experience of scaling disruptive new technology companies with a love of food, cross-sector expertise and belief in agriculture’s power to regenerate the planet and curb climate change. With its first impact fund, it is seeking Europe and North America’s most ambitious entrepreneurs across food, agriculture and ocean tech startups who share this mission and want to solve systemic challenges across the food system and build businesses that thrive with nature. 

The food and agriculture sector in modern times has been designed to deliver calories at an ever-lower price. The cost of prioritising quantity over quality is being paid in, according to Astanor: 

  • Booming greenhouse gas emissions – agriculture generates 1/3 of all ghgs, while livestock farming alone is responsible for 18%, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation;
  • Resource scarcity – 70% of the world’s fresh water resources are consumed by agriculture, 1/3 of the earth’s soil has been “acutely degraded” by intensive farming and fertile soil is being lost at a rate of 24bn tonnes a year as demand for food increases;
  • Waste – 40% of food produced goes to waste or never makes it to market; 
  • Chronic disease – 30% of the world is now obese or overweight, while 1 in 9 suffer from malnutrition and hunger; 
  • A loss of both quantity and quality – crop yields are flatlining, desertification is on the rise and produce is deteriorating in quality. The average fruit or vegetable has 15% less nutrients than it did in 1950.

At the same time, new science and cross-pollination between technologists, farmers, microbiologists, environmentalists, engineers, AI experts, food scientists, chefs, fermentation alchemists and others passionate about sustainable food is creating a future of food built at the intersection of technology and nature.

Astanor was founded on the view that innovation at this intersection will allow us to create a food system that improves health and curbs climate change for all. Integral to the fund’s mission is delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and acceleration of climate-positive commitments made by the most progressive governments, such as the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, key components of the Green Deal. 

COVID-19 has exposed the connection between our environment and our health, and highlighted the role farming and food can play as our best medicine and source of resilience. Founders Eric Archambeau and George Coelho believe passionately that new technology can restore health to people and the planet, while creating a future of food that is nourishing, regenerative, scalable, trusted and delicious.

Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner, Astanor Ventures said: “It’s never been clearer that there’s a direct connection between the food that we eat and the environment that we live in. When one part of the ecosystem that connects farmers, consumers, livestock, rivers, seas, soil, plants and air becomes damaged, all parts suffer. The pandemic has brought this home to us vividly and there is now an urgent need for an impact investor like Astanor which is using tech and capital to bring about a revolution in food and farming, while also working towards accelerating the UN’s sustainable development goals and mitigating climate change.”

Astanor will tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges including keeping the world’s growing population nourished, while protecting the environment. Within its network, Astanor counts entrepreneurs, impact investors, farmers, chefs, policy makers, food scientists and high-profile sector experts, such as Kathleen Merrigan, Professor in the School of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University, and an Astanor Venture Partner.

Eric added: “We are looking for those passionate, driven entrepreneurs who understand that food production has become disconnected from the soil and its microbiome, with horrible consequences for the planet and our ability to feed the world’s growing population well and sustainably.

By aligning new technology with existing knowledge and methods, we can reconnect ourselves to the land and begin to resolve the problems that are preventing people from having access to affordable, plentiful and nourishing food. Food and agriculture has evolved into one of the most damaging industries for the planet and we urgently need to find better ways to do things if we are to address the climate emergency and the destruction of some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems and habitats. The scale of the problems we face demands that we take a revolutionary not evolutionary approach to reconnecting nature, nurture, food and farming.”

Since its founding in 2017, Astanor has invested in more than 20 European and US startups that are working to accelerate regenerative agriculture, innovate food production techniques and farming, as well as promote food culture and the enjoyment of food. 

Portfolio companies include French insect farming pioneer Ϋnsect, in which Astanor is the lead investor; Infarm, the Berlin-based on-demand vertical farming company; La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm to table supplier who connects growers to consumers which has seen a 500% uptick in custom during the pandemic; and Notpla, a UK-based company seeking to eliminate plastics by creating a highly functional packaging material from seaweed. Another recent investment is California food waste reduction company Apeel which has created plant-based protection for fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing produce to stay fresh twice as long as without it.

Antoine Hubert, CEO, Ϋnsect, said: “To build a visionary project such as Ϋnsect, you need visionary investors. Investors who have built massive successes such as Spotify and gone through multiple downturns know how to create lasting value. Astanor Ventures is such an investor. Their expertise, network and advisors help us encounter opportunities, strengthen our governance, manage complex industrial projects, attract the best co-investors and recruit the best talents. Eric and Hendrik were instrumental in helping us build new business models that helped us to leverage our know-how and create even more value.”

Grégoire de Tilly, CEO, of La Ruche Qui Dit Oui said: “Eric has got an incredible and unique drive. He and his team are pragmatic, innovative, team supportive and fully engaged. They listen first, give clearly their opinion and help you to make true decisions, unlike most VC funds who are most of the time too timid with copy-paste advice. The Astanor team has also got a very strong and diverse network, with a true bridge between Europe and the US. Astanor also has the financial capacity to be lead investors and to convince key funds to join a major financing round, which is also a major asset.”

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