Tech talents trying to rethink farming

“TRACY, Calif. — Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world’s newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming — the world’s oldest industry — with an audacious agenda: to make sure there is enough food for the 10 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2100, do it without destroying the world and make a pretty penny along the way.

Silicon Valley is pushing its way into every stage of the food-growing process, from tech tycoons buying up farmland to startups selling robots that work the fields to hackathons dedicated to building the next farming app.

“The food sector is wasteful and inefficient,” said Ali Partovi, a Bay Area investor with large stakes in sustainable agriculture startups. “Silicon Valley has a hubris that says, ‘That’s stupid. Let’s change it.’ ”

The booming activity around the so-called ag-tech sector has led experts to predict that its growth, in terms of the number of new startups and venture-capital investments, will in another five or so years outpace today’s hottest technologies.

In the third quarter this year, venture capitalists and private-equity firms invested $269 million into 41 deals in agriculture and food startups, the highest dollar amount ever in that sector and double the amount invested during the third quarter last year, according to data from the Cleantech Group. Since 2009, investments into this sector have grown an average 63 percent every year.

“It’s going to be bigger than cloud software, it’s going to be bigger than Big Data, because everybody eats,” said Paul Matteucci, a partner with U.S. Venture Partners and founder of Feeding 10 Billion, a nonprofit center to help ag-tech entrepreneurs. “And it’s going to be completely entrepreneur led.”…”

Read more in the Seattle Times.

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