Yield Lab Europe has announced the launch of Yield Lab Europe Fund 1 LP, a European agtech venture capital fund which will invest in innovative early stage businesses in the area of agrifood technologies that have the potential to scale up internationally. The fund will include an Accelerator Fund which invests €100,000 into five companies each year, and a larger follow-on fund to lead rounds through to Series A for selected companies. The fund’s €21 million first close is backed by a €10 million investment from Enterprise Ireland, €4 million from AIB, and three leading private family offices.

Sustainability of food production

The fund will invest in companies that improve the sustainability of food production, helping to reduce the contribution of the sector to climate change and environmental pollution. It is planned to raise further capital for the fund over the next 12 months. Yield Lab Europe has successfully run its agtech accelerator programme over the past two years, through which it has invested in seven companies. Portfolio companies from Ireland include: Cork-based ApisProtect, whose technology helps commercial beekeepers protect the health of their honey bees; Meath-based insect farm Hexafly who uses black soldier flies to upcycle brewing waste into high value proteins, oils and natural fertilisers; Carlow-based Microgen Biotech, whose technology prevents the uptake of toxic heavy metals into plants and our food; and Cork-based MicroSynbiotiX, an animal health company developing a microalgae oral vaccine technology platform to reduce antibiotic usage and tackle disease in aquaculture. Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said: “Venture capital is essential for the growth and development of successful high potential Irish businesses and I am delighted to announce the creation of the European agtech Fund by Yield Lab, to be based in Ireland. "This fund is very important, marking a significant increase in the availability of capital for companies in the agritech sector. "It advances our strategy, through Enterprise Ireland, of supporting the sustained growth and internationalisation of this vibrant sector and will help drive the commercialisation of new and innovative products from ambitious Irish companies.” Paul Finnerty, chairman of Yield Lab Europe, said: “The launch of this new fund is a testament to our success to date and the potential of this sector.

'Supported seven highly innovative startups'

"It gives us the financial firepower to be a leading player in early stage investment in European agtech. Over the past two years we have invested in and supported seven highly innovative startups that are building international businesses of scale. "Never before has the need for innovative technologies, to improve the sustainability and efficiency of how food is produced, been so acutely needed. "Large corporates globally depend on the start-up ecosystem to provide next generation solutions to critical problems facing the agriculture and food industries. Agtech is the sharp end of agrifood industry innovation.” Kevin Sherry, executive director of global business development at Enterprise Ireland, said: “Ireland’s reputation as a hub for innovation in the agri sector continues to grow and I would like to congratulate Yield lab on this new fund, supported by Enterprise Ireland which will assist in providing the global ag sector with leading innovative, effective, scalable products and services.

'Quality and innovation'

"This fund will increase the availability of that essential early stage growth capital and address equity funding availability within the area of agrifood technologies, further driving Ireland’s reputation for quality and innovation in this important sector.” Finlay McFadyen, head of investment banking AIB said: “AIB are delighted to partner with Yield Lab in this fund which will support early stage companies who require investment in the specialist agtech sector. "The fund demonstrates AIB’s support for the Agtech ecosystem in Ireland while strengthening the sustainable development of Irish agriculture and food production. Ireland, due to its unique blend of a progressive agri sector and vibrant tech community, is excellently placed to become the European leader in this area.” The companies it has invested in and accelerated to date are from many sectors, including: Big Data and Precision Agriculture (ApisProtect, Sencrop); Alternative Proteins (Hexafly); Animal Health and Aquaculture (MicroSymbiotiX); Soil Health (Microgen Biotech); Supply Chain Technologies (Impact Vision) and Crop Protection (Rootwave),