Food and agtech investments don’t stack up with climate needs

Are food and agtech investors deploying their funds wisely? That’s the question I asked myself this week when comparing data from two recent reports. Of course, the potential for profitability is a baseline for any good investment. But in a world on the brink of ecological collapse, investments also need to have meaning beyond money. So how are investors doing on that end? 

Here are my two sources: 

  1. AgFunder’s 2022 agrifoodtech investment report analyzed over 3,000 investments, mostly from venture capital firms and accelerator funds, backing technology-focused startups across the entire food and agricultural value chain in 2021. 
  2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report synthesized the world’s leading science, identifying actions governments, corporations and individuals can take to reduce and sequester emissions. 

While these two reports aren’t an apples-to-apples comparison, and the topics in each don’t align entirely, there’s enough overlap to see how recent startup activity relates to mitigation needs. 

[Continue the dialogue on how to build a circular economy with forward-thinking leaders at Circularity 22, taking place in Atlanta, GA, May 17-19.]

Let’s start with the mitigation potential and implied practice changes. The IPCC identified seven significant opportunities for net emissions reduction in agriculture, food and other land use, shown in the chart below. I won’t get into the third and fourth bars focused on ecosystem restoration, afforestation and sustainable forest management, as they don’t relate directly to food and agriculture. 

Within the food systems realm, it recommends the following actions, listed in order of mitigation potential: 

  1. Protect forests and other ecosystems: Reduce deforestation drivers (agriculture, mining, urban expansion) and forest degradation (overharvesting, poor harvesting, overgrazing, pests, wildfires) and establish effective protected areas.
  2. Sequester carbon in agriculture: Deploy efforts…

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