St. Louis Region Among Top In Nation For Agtech Startup Investments

by St. Louis Regional Chamber | Sep 12, 2018
The St. Louis region is in the middle of an agricultural technology boom, according to a report released by the St. Louis Regional Chamber. Venture capital investment into St. Louis’ growing Agtech ecosystem is exploding, with nearly $60 million deployed in 2017. Based on current trends and deals the Regional Chamber is monitoring, total venture investment in the St. Louis Agtech sector is projected to reach $90 million in 2018, a more than 440% increase in just four years. St. Louis’ share of global Agtech venture dollars is roughly equivalent to New York’s total share of global technology venture dollars. That means that the St. Louis region is a major global center for agricultural technology investment, and now is the time that St. Louis adopt and brand itself as the world’s top agricultural technology region, similar to media technology’s growth in California’s Silicon Valley.

The Regional Chamber’s report suggest that now is the time to continue investing venture capital in agtech businesses and use a strong regional narrative that promotes St. Louis’ opportunities in agriculture technology. These actions will have an exponential effect: we will attract more investment, create more jobs and businesses, and attract companies and talent from around the world who want to be at the forefront of agtech. “The emerging Agtech Boom represents a unique opportunity for the St. Louis region to establish a globally recognized brand in one of the fastest growing innovation sectors,” said Andrew Smith, the Regional Chamber’s Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “In the next 5-7 years, we have a real opportunity to become the “Silicon Valley of Agtech,” and doing so would immensely help the region’s business and talent attraction efforts.” 

The explosion of venture capital investment in the St. Louis area is an organic development based on the region’s economic, intellectual and cultural strengths, as well as physical location in the Heartland along one of the nation’s busiest grain distribution networks. More than a decade of deliberate community and infrastructure building, coupled with the region’s long history of supporting large agri-business enterprises, has created an ideal set of conditions for innovation in the Agtech space. In addition, Agtech-focused investment funds such as the Yield Lab and Lewis & Clark Ventures continue to growth in scale and performance, while advocacy organizations like BioSTL, the Donald C. Danforth Plant Science Center, GlobalSTL and others support and leverage these assets. 

“The Regional Chamber’s report highlights agtech as a pillar of our innovation economy and validates the ongoing work of the St. Louis ag ecosystem to grow startups, attract companies, and innovate to solve important world challenges,” said Donn Rubin, President & CEO of BioSTL. “The Brookings Institution and others are recognizing St. Louis for these strengths, but increased capital will be important in fueling continued success.”

The Regional Chamber highlights 13 “companies to watch,” including Benson Hill Biosystems, New Leaf Symbiotics, Arvegenix, Nanoguard, S4, Agrivida, RNagri (formerly Apse), Agg.io, and Agrela which have collectively raised over $200,000,000 in the last few years. Because Agtech companies typically take longer to scale and exit than tech companies, we may still be several years from reaping the fruits of these investments. The Chamber’s report suggests watching whether some of the more developed companies, such as Benson Hill Biosystems, New Leaf Symbiotics, Arvegenix, and Agrivida are able to continue raising follow on rounds at favorable valuations. The report also recommends that attracting the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agricultural (NIFA) headquarters to relocate to St. Louis from Washington, D.C. area would be a huge win for the region in the agtech sector. In August, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its plans to relocate 700+ jobs.


Read the full report.

Read the executive summary.

Read the 2017 Greater St. Louis Venture Capital Overview report.