There’s no question that technology is revolutionising farming. Agriculture is now infinitely smarter thanks to the many ‘Agripreneurs’ whose companies offer sensors, robotics, 3D printing, cloud-based computing, and artificial intelligence. Drones and connected machines are more affordable, giving rise to smart devices for farming suppliers and service providers, allowing the exchange of vast amounts of data. Farming is also becoming more precise with risk mitigation strategies to manage conditions such as weather informed by big data, and predictive analytics enabling real-time simulations.
Early-stage investment in AgriTech startups reached $10.1 billion in 2017; as the population grows, this market will only grow. However, only 3% of investment dollars and 7% of deals out of 8,000 agriculture and food-tech investments from 2015-2018 went to women-founded startups. ‘Money Where Our Mouths Are’ (MWOMA), a report conducted by AgFunder, The New Food Economy and Karen Karp & Partners, revealed the dire reality for women founders in AgriTech; it’s harder for them to raise money for their ventures than it is for their male counterparts. Women are being given less capital even though their businesses deliver higher revenue and are the fastest-growing. Many studies have shown that companies with more gender-diverse teams, especially at the top management level, achieve higher financial returns, higher innovation levels, and increased efficiency.
Women, in all likelihood, are even more equipped to lead in the food and agriculture sectors, given that women make 85-90% of purchasing decisions in their households – decisions around food, health, or family care. Melinda Gates has pledged $1 billion for driving women-led enterprises and the mobilisation of women to positions of power and influence.
Given the challenges faced by previous generations of women, I’ve always felt very fortunate to be a woman investor in the modern world, currently heading up investment firm NJF Capital. While the future of women-led businesses excites me, these findings show just how far there is to go before women have an equal investment opportunity, particularly in AgriTech.
From within our NJF Capital portfolio, we are proud to support several women-led businesses, each tackling relevant problems worldwide. For example, Swarm Technologies, founded in 2016 by Dr Sara Spangelo or Elvie, co-founded by Tania Boler in 2014, one of the rapidly growing FemTech sector pioneers.
AgriTech as a sector faces many challenges in its future, especially as climate change’s effects start to take hold. I am excited to see how women entrepreneurs in AgriTech contribute to lasting change in the industry.