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Ag technology venture capital investments tumble

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Investments in agricultural technology tumbled in 2016, as the global venture capital market cooled, and investors lost faith in drones.

And difficulty of selling or floating new technology also discouraged investment.

"Investment in agriculture technology startups reached $3.23bn in 2016, a 30% year-on-year decline," the agricultural investment platform AgFunder said.

Scarcer investments

"The dynamics of the global markets had an impact on agtech funding," AgFunder said.

"After a record-breaking 2015, when 526 agri-tech funding deals raised $4.6bn, we anticipated a pullback in 2016, particularly against the backdrop of a weakening global venture capital market," AgFunder said.

According to KPMG, venture capital funding investments fell by 10% in 2016, due to rising valuations for startups, and a discouraging initial public offer market.

AgFunder warned that for 2017, "the lack of exits remains a talking point among the dedicated venture capitalists in the sector".

But overall deal activity actually rose, thanks to an increase in lower-value early-stage deals.

Drones prove lest tempting

Investments in robotics in the ag-sector fell 68%, as investors lost their interest in drone technology.

"Drones were a hot technology in 2015, with great expectations for their ability to help farmers manage their operations," AgFunder said.

"As they became more widespread, however, it became clear that providing farmers with aerial images of their farms did not automatically save them time or money."

Some drone manufacturers are also turning away from agriculture, AgFunder said.

Biotechnology investment

Investments in bio-energy dipped, thanks to the depressed global energy prices.

Investments in food delivery also fell, but AgFunder was more upbeat on prospects for the sector.

"Food retailers have typically been slow to provide consumers with the online options they want, especially in the US, providing an opportunity for entrepreneurs to continue to try and disrupt their space."

A more positive trend was seen in other sectors, in particularly agricultural biotechnology.

"The funding climb in ag biotech was driven by the maturing of several start-ups including microbial seed coating company Indigo," AgFunder said.

Agritech investment will be among the themes discussed at the AgrimoneyLIVE event, held in London May 23-25.

By William Clarke

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