Finding tomorrow’s Agri-food tech heroes

30 May 2023
Cultiv8 Funds Management prioritises productivity, sustainability, and profitability in their investment approach, supporting innovative solutions like FutureFeed in areas such as natural capital, climate adaptability, and animal and crop productivity. In this interview with Cultiv8 Founding Partner, Jonathon Quigley, shares his insights into the transformative impact of solutions like FutureFeed.

A Canadian farmer noticed his livestock grazing in his coastal paddocks were performing better than those further inland. The coastal cattle were easier to handle, had improved fertility rates and gained more weight.

The farmer rang a friend and scientist Dr Rob Kinley, asking for some help to figure out what was going on. Dr Kinley discovered that not only were the coastal cattle performing better, but their greenhouse gas emissions were much lower when they ate seaweed.

Dr Kinley joined the team at CSIRO to work with James Cook University and the Meat & Livestock Association to develop, hopefully, a natural feed ingredient to reduce methane and improve feed use efficiency.

That ultimately led to the creation of FutureFeed and after many years of research, data confirms a seaweed species called Asparagopsis can drastically reduce the methane output of cattle by up to 90 per cent when fed daily.

Consuming the seaweed also improves the animal’s productivity by up to 10 per cent, reducing the required number of days on feed.

“Just like the agricultural revolution in Britain in the 18th Century boosted food output, the technological revolution in agriculture in the 21st Century is providing enormous production and sustainability benefits, and also investment opportunities,” says Jonathon Quigley, co-founder and partner of Cultiv8 Funds Management, an investor in FutureFeed.  

“FutureFeed has now issued 8 licences globally to commercialise the feed additive, which will initially be used in feedlots and dairies,” Quigley says.

FutureFeed is typical of the type of company Cultiv8 considers when investing.

“We are early-stage agri-food tech investment managers, pursuing productivity, sustainability, and profitability,” Quigley says. “Our investment philosophy is to find clever, driven, and passionate founders that have a deep connection to the challenge being addressed.”

“We don’t invest in flashy businesses that gain overnight fame. Instead, we create value by investing in practical and scalable solutions that are driven by skilled entrepreneurs, with a passion for solving our industries greatest challenges.”

Quigley says relationships are critical to Cultiv8’s success. They include partnerships with leading agricultural research and development corporations, domestic and global corporates, international universities, and government research organisations.

“There is money to be made in Agri-Food Tech. The impact of climate change and an ever-growing population is increasing activity and investment into the sector,” Quigley says.

“Over the past decade private funding alone has increased by nearly 13 times and governments’ growing need to implement climate related policy has resulted in significant increases to Agri-Food Tech funding.”

The injection of cash has had several benefits, Quigley says. “It has de-risked early-stage innovations. Importantly it has encouraged driven and talented entrepreneurs to bring their skills to the Agri-Food Tech sector to help design solutions.”

Cultiv8 broadly invests in the following themes.

  • Natural capital and biodiversity.
  • Climate adaptability and emissions.
  • Animal and crop productivity
  • Data and connectivity
  • Circularity
  • Automation and robotics
  • Energy transition and adoption
  • Health and wellness

“We consider market crowding, scalability, adoptability and the accumulated impact of an innovation from an environmental, efficiency and economical perspective,” Quigley explains.

“These considerations form the basis for our sourcing criteria. Our multi-pronged approach leverages data farming, our networks, inbound opportunities, our established science and research model and our accelerator, SparkLabs Cultiv8.”

The accelerator has invested in nearly 50 companies, writing small cheques to support and de-risk activities for future investment, many of which are now having an impact, at scale, Quigley says.

One such example is Nutrivert, an American, biopharmaceutical company tackling a growing challenge in animal production.

Almost three-quarters of all antibiotics produced are used in animal agriculture, mostly for growth promotion This misuse of antibiotics is reducing the efficacy of these drugs, leading to antimicrobial resistance in humans and animals.

“Nutrivert’s solution eliminates the need for antibiotics to be part of the animals normal feed ration but maintains the properties which increase animal growth rates,” Quigley says.

“The technology was born from the University of Auburn and is supported by an experienced team that have previously brought Animal Pharma products to market. With animal antibiotic production valued at $US5 billion annually, even capturing a small market share will create a compelling investment return.”