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California’s Finistere targets NZ food tech startups with $40m fund

16th April 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

From Palo Alto to Palmerston North, US food tech investment firm Finister Ventures has launched a $40m fund to target New Zealand agritech startups.

The vehicle, Finistere Aotearoa Fund, has been seeded with a $14m commitment from New Zealand Growth Capital Partners via its $300m Elevate NZ Venture Fund.

Finistere Aotearoa Fund will support early-stage companies developing technologies for agriculture, alternative protein, supply chain, and other areas of food tech that need Series A and B investment.

NZGCP said that Finistere will match Elevate’s commitment at least dollar-to-dollar with private capital, which means at first close at least $28m will be available to invest into agritech investments in New Zealand connected entities.

It added that Finistere Ventures is aiming for a final close of $42m, which if achieved would see Elevate’s contribution rise to $21m.

Dean Tilyard

The New Zealand operation would be managed by Palmerston North-based investment manager, Dean Tilyard, who has worked with Finistere previously to establish Sprout, a Callaghan tech incubator with a strong agritech focus based in the Manawatū city.

Finistere, which was co-founded by Arama Kukutai, a New Zealander based in California, is no stranger to the New Zealand agritech investment market counting ultraviolet light technology company BioLumic, inspection robotics company Invert, and software company CropX as existing New Zealand investments.

It has a global agri-tech focus with offices in the United States, Ireland, Israel and New Zealand.

“New Zealand is a world leader in agricultural research and innovation focused on curtailing the environmental impacts of agriculture, fuelled in part by the government’s continued investment in and commitment to a zero-emissions national agriculture strategy,” Kukutai said.

Arama Kukutai

“This new fund underpins our commitment to the local ecosystem. In the year ahead, our goal is to anchor more investment from our global network of partners like Rabobank, RIV Capital Inc, and Yamaha to support New Zealand’s best start-ups.”

This is the fourth commitment by Elevate – the government’s new venture capital fund being run by New Zealand Growth Capital Partners  – since its launch in March last year, and takes the vehicle’s commitments to date up to potentially $94m.

Elevate investment director James Pinner said Finistere’s strong track record globally means this investment aligned well with the government’s broader agritech strategy. 

“It is also pleasing to be part of the first venture fund located outside of Auckland or Wellington,” Pinner said.

“Palmerston North has attracted disproportionately high levels of angel and seed investment over the past decade, and a venture capital presence is indicative of the investment potential of its research facilities.”

Palmerston North, which has Massey University and a number of Crown Research Institutes, is a key agritech hub. The region has one of the highest concentration of agritech focused scientists in the southern hemisphere.



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