New York and Singapore-based venture capital firm, Big Idea Ventures recently launched a fund to strengthen rural economies across the U.S. through alternative protein innovation and other agricultural technologies.
Founded in 2018, Big Idea Ventures (BIV), a venture capital company that invests in early-stage alternative protein innovation has launched the Generation Food Rural Partners (GFRP) fund and has chosen the North Carolina State University as its first collaborator.
The fund is a US$125 million target fund that aims to boost the economic development of rural communities through protein innovation, commercialization of food and agricultural technologies, and university intellectual property.
In a press release seen by Green Queen, Andrew D. Ive, founder and managing general partner of BIV, said that the fund aims to repair the broken global food chain. “Big Idea Ventures was founded to solve the world’s greatest challenges by backing the world’s best entrepreneurs. This new fund will widen our scope to capture breakthrough technologies from world-class universities that will impact the global food supply chain. The goal is to drive job creation and entrepreneurship in rural communities hungry for economic development and have them continue to be the centers of food innovation and production for generations to come.”
With plans to establish five centers initially, the GFRP fund will look to collaborate with several U.S. universities. The company staff will work with universities to pick out those developments that have high commercialization potential and then invest in those companies that are created around the research.
The goal is to drive job creation and entrepreneurship in rural communities hungry for economic development and have them continue to be the centers of food innovation and production for generations to come
Andrew D. Ive, founder and managing general partner of Big Idea Ventures
The new companies will be physically based in rural communities near the universities, with the GFRP team hoping that the first of these new companies will be established in North Carolina.
Tom Mastrobuoni, chief investment officer for Big Idea Ventures explained that they chose North Carolina as its first collaborator due to its research in the plant-based sector. “We are excited to launch Generation Food Rural Partners with NC State as our first university collaborator. We chose NC State because of its forward-looking investments in plant science and plant-based food innovation and its historical excellence in plant breeding and agricultural research. We want to help universities like NC State benefit from the formation of these new businesses while demonstrating the commercial value of university research. We believe GFRP will drive more scientists to pursue additional research and encourage other entrepreneurs to establish their companies near our venture centers in rural America.”
The state is recognised as a top research spot in the country: along with researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences awarded with US$96.5 million in grants last year, it has crossed US$130 million in research expenditures in more than 600 active research programs.
Richard Linton, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Richard Linton added that North Carolina has the third most diverse agricultural economy and the most entrepreneurial farmers and agribusinesses in the nation. “With their investment in NC State research and programs such as the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative and the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab, we believe we have a complete innovation ecosystem to attract and support the best researchers and food entrepreneurs in the world.”
We chose NC State because of its forward-looking investments in plant science and plant-based food innovation and its historical excellence in plant breeding and agricultural research. We believe GFRP will drive more scientists to pursue additional research and encourage other entrepreneurs to establish their companies near our venture centers in rural America.
Tom Mastrobuoni, chief investment officer for Big Idea Ventures
Senator Brent Jackson, N.C. Senate highlight that venture support is critical to the further development of rural businesses and infrastructure. “Bringing food manufacturing companies directly to the source of the agricultural products they need will be a game-changer for our farmers, our rural communities, and the entrepreneurs who take advantage of this opportunity.”
With only 20% of the state’s agricultural GDP coming from food manufacturing, expanding the state’s food manufacturing capacity in rural communities will be essential for the North Carolina General Assembly.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at the moment, the market base for alternative protein is approximately US$2.2 billion compared with a global meat market of approximately US$1.7 trillion.
In October of last year, BIV collaborated with Ashika Group, one of India’s leading retail financial services companies to establish a new investment fund and accelerator program that will support India’s alternative protein industry.
BIV currently manages a US$50 million international fund and two accelerators across New York and Singapore, with previous investments in over 20 companies such as India’s Evo Foods, a Mumbai-based food tech.