Billion-Dollar Babies #5: 6 Unicorn Startups in The Ag & Food Industry

James Dargan

Faux-meat Products

We live in an era where it’s heaven to be a foodie, with the vast choices available for those with a selective palate. Whether you’re a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, there’s something for everyone. With advances in synthetic biology, the alternatives in food and ag are expanding at a tremendous pace, with even plant-based meat substitutes and edible insects being bred now to be used for faux-meat products.

Another advantage of this is, in the long run, it will lower the carbon footprint and hopefully save the planet and keep Greta Thunberg happy, good for her and the rest of us. And with some projections at nine plus billion people on the planet by 2050, we need to start on that pronto before we ruin it for future generations.

Deep Tech can invariably help the food ecosystem, either by creating new food staples or by assisting in how the food we already grow gets to people through AI, ML and predictive analysis.

As usual, the time of the week has come for another Deep Tech Insider Billion-Dollar Babies contribution, this time ten unicorn startups in the Ag and Food industry whose valuation exceeds a billion dollars.

1. Apeel Sciences (Estimated valuation: >$2B)

Apeel Sciences is a Goleta, California-based company founded by James Rogers in 2021. Its edible coating product, called Apeel, can extend the lifespan of harvested fruits and vegetables without the need for refrigeration, eliminating food wastage, reducing water consumption and energy use, and preserve natural ecosystems by using a tasteless edible coating made from plant materials.

According to CNBC, in August Apeel Sciences raised $250 million in a Series E funding round. From that, the company now has a post-money valuation of more than $2 billion, doubling its last reported valuation of $1.1 billion from April 2020, as per PitchBook data.

This brings Apeel Sciences total raised to date at $640.1 million in funding over nine rounds, with investors and philanthropic partners that include Andreessen Horowitz, Viking Global Investors, Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Powerplant Ventures, DBL Partners, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation.

2. Benson Hill (Estimated valuation: $2B)

Founded by Matthew B. Crisp and Todd Mockler in 2012, Benson Hill is a St Louis, Missouri-based crop improvement company that unlocks the natural diversity of plants and empowers innovators with a revolutionary crop design platform to develop healthier and more sustainable food and ingredients. Its CropOS™ platform combines ML and big data with breeding techniques and plant biology to drastically accelerate and simplify the product development process.

As per the information in the vegan business magazine Vegconomist in August 2021, Benson Hill plans to go public in a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in a deal valuing the company at $2 billion, with the deal expected to raise $625 million in capital for the Missouri company.

Benson Hill has raised a total of $282.3 million in funding over 11 rounds. The latest round, a $150-million Series D, in October 2020 led by GV and the Wheatsheaf Group Limited.

3. Beyond Meat (Estimated valuation: ~$7.82B)

Beyond Meat is a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown. The company, a major player in the faux meat market, has products designed to emulate burgers, ground meat, sausage, and meatballs. By shifting from animal to plant-based meat, Beyond Meat believes it can positively affect the planet, the environment, the climate and even ourselves.

As of July 2019, Beyond Meat had a market value of $11.7 billion, following a value of $3.8 billion on the day of its IPO on 2 May 2019, as per data on Yahoo Finance.

According to Reuters, since then its valuation has fallen from a peak of $14 billion to closer to $7.82 billion and is predicted by several brokerages to fall further.

Beyond Meat has raised a total of $122 million in funding over ten rounds. Its latest funding was raised in January 2019 from a Secondary Market round.

4. Farmers Business Network (Estimated valuation: ~$1B to 10B)

Farmers Business Network is an independent and unbiased, farmer-to-farmer agronomic information network, whose mission is to improve the livelihood of farmers by making data useful and accessible.

It does this by utilizing data science and ML to provide members with unbiased and unprecedented insights about each of their fields, powered by billions of data points from its network, ultimately providing farmers with product performance, benchmarking and predictive analytics based on real-world performance data.

It was founded by Amol Deshpande and Charles Baron in 2014 and is based out of San Carlos, California.

Farmers Business Network has raised a total of $570.4 million in funding over eight rounds. The latest funding was raised in August 2020 from a Series F round. As of August 2020, it has a post-money valuation in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion, according to provider of business and financial research, PrivCo.

5. Impossible Foods (Estimated valuation: ~$1B to 10B)

Impossible Foods — a company transforming the global food system by creating better ways to make meat, dairy and fish without using animals — was founded in 2011 by Stanford Professor Emeritus Pat Brown and Monte Casino. Based in Redwood City, California, the company promises by eating its products your environmental footprint is much lower, you use less land and water and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The burger and sausage range of faux meat products are manufactured using plant-based heme, made via fermentation of genetically engineered yeast, and safety-verified by America’s top food-safety experts and peer-reviewed academic journals.

Since 2011, Impossible Foods has raised a total of $1.6 billion in funding over 16 rounds. The latest funding coming in August 2020 from a $200-million Series G round led by Coatue.

According to PrivCo, this brings Impossible Foods’ post-money valuation in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion, as of August 2020.

6. Indigo Ag (Estimated valuation: ~$1B to 10B)

With headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, Indigo Ag uses natural microbiology and digital technologies to improve grower profitability, sustainability, and consumer health for tens of thousands of growers across millions of acres. Founded by David Berry, Geoffrey von Maltzahn, Ignacio Martinez, and Noubar Afeyan in 2014, Indigo Ag’s Carbon by Indigo — a scientifically backed program that provides growers with a new revenue stream in the form of verified agricultural carbon credits — will assist farmers to make practice changes and allow carbon credit verification, amongst other things.

With some $1.2 billion in funding raised over 11 rounds, its latest funding came in August 2020 from a Series F round, bringing Indigo Ag’s post-money valuation in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion as of August 2020, according to PrivCo data.

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