THURSDAY, APRIL 22, 2010 AT 9:50AM
Agriculture 2.0, "the pre-eminent gathering for the entrepreneurs, investors, food producers, and experts" in sustainable food took place about a month ago, but the New York Times is still buzzing about it. The article is short on details about actual money that's being invested in organic farming (in fact, the one farmer they interviewed hadn't found any investors yet), but it does include a handful of optimistic quotes from some venture capitalists. Among them:
"Sustainable ag smells like clean tech, but it’s not so obscure that you’ve never heard of it but obscure enough there’s no competition."
-Janine Yorio, founder of NewSeed Advisors, which hosts Agriculture 2.0
"If you’re interested in investing in energy and water, you become interested in investing in agriculture. A lot of ag opportunities are going to be driven by water, it’s availability and cleanliness."
-Amol Deshpande, a venture partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
"Sustainable agriculture is a space that looks as big or bigger than clean tech. Historically, we have not seen a ton of entrepreneurial activity in agriculture, but we are beginning to see it now, and the opportunities are huge."
-Paul Matteucci, a venture capitalist with U.S. Venture Partners
I'm still not entirely sure where there's money to be made by venture capitalists in the field of sustainable agriculture. It's true that there are several innovations (aquaponics, vermiculture, unheated greenhouses) that could be developed and commodified by the right business mind, and maybe that would help to popularize some of these techniques. But it remains to be seen if anyone will every make any money doing it.