EXCLUSIVE: Natural Capital Big Focus For Cibus Capital

Amanda Cheesley Deputy Editor May 21, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: Natural Capital Big Focus For Cibus Capital

After London-headquartered Cibus Capital, a specialist investment advisory firm focused on sustainable food and agriculture, announced the close of Cibus Fund II and Cibus Enterprise Fund II, Alastair Cooper, head of venture at Cibus Capital, discusses next steps with this news service.

Alastair Cooper at Cibus Capital recently highlighted the importance of the food transition in order to make it more sustainable and resource-efficient for both the planet and humans.

The need to produce more food using fewer resources to feed a growing population has become critical. “The catalyst is new technology which is offering new solutions around resource efficiency and sustainability. Large-scale farmland needs to revert to more organic and regenerative agriculture and use new tech to make up the slack in terms of production,” Cooper told this news service in an exclusive interview. 

“At Cibus, we only invest in food and ag. We have three investment strategies. These include the mid-market strategy, focused on growth equity and buyout into mid-sized profitable firms in the food value chain that have improved their ESG standards. We also have a venture strategy, focused on impactful agriculture and food technology. Finally, we have investment in large scale operating assets, focused on healthy crops that are growing in demand, like nuts and berries,” Cooper continued.

“We only invest in the developed world, namely North America, Israel, Europe and Australasia. Our venture strategy is half invested in North America, Europe and Israel whilst the mid-market strategy is only invested in Europe and Australasia,” he added. “We also have new capital from these fundraises and are investing this gradually,” he said.

Cibus Capital has just closed its second mid-market private equity fund, Cibus Fund II, with more than $510 million in commitments, and its second venture fund, Cibus Enterprise Fund II (CE II), with over $135 million in commitments. 

The fundraise attracted investment from a diversified investor base consisting of returning and new participants. Investors in the two funds include Los Angeles County Employee Retirement Association and Retail Employees Superannuation Trust (REST), one of Australia’s largest profit-to-member superannuation funds, amongst other institutional investors. 

Cibus Capital, founded in 2016, aims to channel capital toward companies that are creating the future of food using technology, whilst ensuring sustainability.

“A big area for us is around robotics which is also about addressing the shortage of labor. With a declining birth rate, an aging population and people not wanting to work on farms, it’s importance to mitigate the labor risk,” Cooper said.

“Another big area for is us natural capital, such as clean air, clean water, biodiversity. Our focus is to reward and preserve natural capital. We see this as an investment opportunity and we have some investments in our current funds,” he added.

Cibus II
“For instance, we are invested in Withcott Seedlings, which is a large player in the highly fragmented nursery space, accounting for 11 per cent of Australia’s nursery market, by plants produced with automation and robots reducing labor costs,” Cooper continued.  

Investments also include Alba Trees, a UK leader in the production and supply of cell-grown plants for sustainable forestry. "Our partnership with Alba Trees brings an exciting addition to the Cibus portfolio. Cibus invests in companies which prioritize decarbonization, promote sustainable forestry, woodland creation and biodiversity. Alba Trees is an industry leader in this sector, providing farmers and landowners with the tools to achieve superior commercial returns and climate resilience,” he added. 

CE II invests in late-stage venture through companies driving technologies with the potential to disrupt food production or processing, increasing resource efficiency and sustainability. The fund has made 10 investments across sectors, including robotics, precision chemistry for crop protection, and natural capital. 

“On the venture side, we are invested in Swiss firm Ecorobotix,” Cooper added. The firm uses precision spraying for localized treatments of row crops, pastures and lawns, targeting the application of herbicides, insecticides or fertilizers, to save on synthetic chemical use.

“Another investment is Burro robot, which means donkey in Spanish, and is an autonomous workhorse collobarative robot, to combat labor scarcity,” he said. The firm estimates that a single Burro enables an eight-person harvest crew to harvest 15 to 30 per cent more fruit daily.   

The Cibus fund has also acquired a majority stake in a Dutch farming robotics provider ISO Group. Based in the Netherlands, ISO designs and develops robotics solutions for indoor vegetable and flower growers.

“We are invested in AeroFarms too, an indoor vertical farming company, which enables crops to be grown all year round, using LED lighting. It uses up to 95 per cent less water than conventional agriculture,” Cooper added.

Next steps
“We are interested in precision farming, biologicals, replacing synthetic chemicals with biofertilizers and so on. We see opportunities in bio-hybrids which use less synthentic chemicals. We are looking at nut production like almonds and pistachios in new areas like Northern Spain rather than California. We are also very focused on natural capital which is a strategy that is a major focus for us in the future, including forestry and regenerative farming opportunities,” Cooper said.

“Bees are also under pressure and we are invested in BeeHero, a precision pollination provider for almonds, berries and more” he added. “The cellular meat world is another area of opportunity for us,” he said.

Cooper has a mixed background in finance, food and agriculture. He worked at Morgan Stanley, before buying his dream farm in Dorset in the UK, which he turned to organic production; he was also an active investor in clean tech and agtech.

Cibus Capital is a London-based investment advisor to the Cibus funds. The Cibus funds partner with food and agriculture companies that provide investors with a risk-adjusted return on capital and a sustainable competitive advantage, the firm said. Cibus has raised over $1 billion to invest in two strategies: mid-market growth/buyout investments in food production and processing businesses and late-stage agrifood technology companies.

This news service is covering agriculture, forestry and food production and related businesses when population pressures, wars, supply chain disruptions and the impact of new technologies have shaken up the space. See more here.

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