Australia-based farm to fork innovation venture fund Mandalay Venture Partners has secured Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) as an investor, deepening its position in Australia’s growing agrifood tech sector.

The fund, which is also backed by Australia’s largest member-owned organization the NRMA, has hit $26.74 million in committed capital, Mandalay Venture Partners said in a statement on Wednesday.

The firm is aiming to deploy this to businesses solving key challenges in the food industry, in areas including sustainability, on-farm efficiencies, supply chain automation, autonomous vehicles, future foods, eCommerce and eGrocery.

It is noted that Mandalay Venture Partners has completed four investments within 12 months, securing its first four portfolio companies: Naturo (Haelen), Harvest B, Agscent and FUL Foods. The fund aims to make another six investments in 2024.

“We’ve hit the ground running. Since raising our first $20 million last year, we’ve brought on some strategically important new investors (including QIC) and made four investments, in what has been a very tough year for startups and VC in Australia,” its Managing Partner Mark Gustowski said.

“QIC’s investment is a meaningful endorsement of our fund. To secure their support, we worked through a level of due diligence typically reserved for large global venture funds.”

“We’re also passionate about Queensland as a hub for agrifood tech. Queensland’s startup ecosystem has been growing steadily over the past decade, so there’s a real opportunity for agrifood tech to excel here, given that over 90 percent of the state’s is already used in agriculture production,” he added.

Cited the Australian Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Mandalay Venture Partners said that 1.7 percent of early stage venture investments across Australia are placed in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Globally, only 2.4 percent of venture funding targets the same category.

However, investment in the agrifood tech sector has quadrupled since 2016, indicating Australia has significantly pent up demand with startups seeking capital support.

“There has never been a better time to invest across the agrifood tech space than now”, Gustowski said.

“Numerous regions across the globe are looking to have exposure to Australia’s clean and green agriculture and food systems, where technology is enabling efficiency, increasing quality and food choice and availability,

“Already one of Australia’s largest export sectors, the adoption of technologies across the agriculture and food supply chain underpins Australia’s rise as a major provider of innovation and tech across the ASEAN region over the decade ahead,” he added.

Meanwhile, QIC Private Equity Partner Nicholas Guest said that Mandalay Venture Partners’ focus on farm-to-fork, including carbon sequestration, on-farm efficiencies, supply chain automation and future foods taps into such an important sector to the Queensland economy.

“By coming together to help close the identified early-stage funding gap in Queensland, we can diversify and grow this sector by making more capital available through a stronger local venture capital industry.“

“In doing so, businesses will not need to leave our state to pursue funding elsewhere – they can establish, grow and remain in Queensland,” he added.

According to the statement, Mandalay Venture Partners will complete its final close at the end of June 2024 after which it will be targeting to invest in between 20 and 30 startups over the next four years.

Mandalay Venture Partners is a firm invests in innovative businesses that provide high potential for impact, sustainability, and capital returns across the agricultural, supply chain and the wider food value-add sectors.

The firm is deeply passionate about early-stage innovation and is on a bigger mission to contribute to global food security and sustainability.

Led by three Partners, Mark Gustowski, Philippe Ceulen, and Timothy Hui, Mandalay Venture Partners is globally connected with international Venture Partners based in Australia, Asia Europe, Thailand, Amsterdam and Luxembourg, along with a global network of associates who provide bridges into export markets.

Mandalay Venture Partners Portfolio companies:

Naturo (Haelen): Haelen is a patented milk processing technology that results in 100 percent fresh, natural milk with increased protein bioavailability, improved tolerance, additional health benefits and a significantly increased shelf life.

Harvest B: Harvest B is a business to business (B2B) food technology company focused on creating affordable proteins that deliver on both taste and nutrition, with a goal of initiating a large-scale, positive impact on the climate.

Agscent: A livestock diagnostics company that has developed a handheld non-invasive pregnancy and disease diagnostics device that detects state non-invasively from breath. To bring the product to market, Agscent holds an exclusive limited licensee to NASA technology.

FUL Foods: An ingredient company that has cracked the code on unlocking the human and climate health potential of Spirulina through a proprietary biorefinery process that addressed key barriers around taste, shelf-life, functionality and overall consumer acceptance.

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