Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ag Chat Spotlights Investing at the Intersection of Agriculture and Technology

Smart, Smaller Scale Plays Land Private Equity Fund Comfortably in the Catbird Seat

By Marc Dresner, IBC Life Sciences

Michael Curry, managing partner at Investeco Capital, has carved out a plum investment niche in Canada’s burgeoning “intelligent agriculture” market for his firm and its clients.

While big private equity funds tend to concentrate on big deals with big companies to the tune of tens of millions, Investeco frequently takes minority stakes ($2-3 million) in early-mid-stage, modest players ($7-10 million rev.) who turn a tidy profit on a promising product with substantial growth potential.

“We don’t have a lot of competition for deal flow,” Curry told Ag Chat. “There is so little capital looking into these areas in Canada that the door is open when we go to see these companies.”

“These entrepreneurs are doing very well; they’re not prepared to sell half the company at this stage,” Curry added. “We like people who think long-term and not in short cycles. These businesses have to have compelling reasons to be around for a long time.”

Investeco’s fund pours expansion capital into agricultural and environmentally sustainable interests in four main areas: water, energy, food and technology.

According to Curry, the sweet spot often rests at the intersection of agriculture and technology: GPS navigation for tractors, variable rate application for seeding and fertilizer, UV water filtration, etc.

“To grow in a sustainable, economical manner going forward, [agribusiness is] going to have to increase yields and crops. We are going to have to use less energy doing so. We are going to have to use less water,” said Curry. “So we see tremendous opportunity in the marriage of technology and agriculture production.”

In this edition of Ag Chat, we’ll also explore:

• The trend toward de-commoditized, value-add food production

• The resurgence of local, resilient supply chains

• Why Wal-Mart is now selling organic milk…

Listen to Part 1.

Listen to Part 2.

Download the transcript.

Ag Chat is an executive interview series featuring the business experts, investors and entrepreneurs at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Each episode explores the trends, technologies and drivers shaping the world of sustainable agriculture today.

Marc Dresner works closely with IBC Life Sciences as a communication lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the market research industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

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