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Cibus Capital Raises $600 Million To Invest In Sustainable Food, Agriculture

Amanda Cheesley Deputy Editor March 5, 2024

Cibus Capital Raises $600 Million To Invest In Sustainable Food, Agriculture

London-headquartered Cibus Capital, a specialist investment advisory firm focused on sustainable food and agriculture, announces the close of Cibus Fund II and Cibus Enterprise Fund II.

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, Cibus said in a statement. 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.

The need to produce more food using fewer resources to feed a growing population has become more critical recently. “The food transition is only just starting,” Alastair Cooper, head of venture at Cibus Capital, told Wealthbriefing. “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.” 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a major producer of bread-making wheat and sunflower oil, two years ago, coupled with concerns about climate change and the disruptions to trade from the pandemic, have put food security under a spotlight. Spikes in energy prices also coincided with concerns about availability of fertilizer and other inputs, feeding through into food price inflation which typically weighs most heavily on the general public. Running alongside these forces are new technologies and approaches, such as hydroponics, lab-grown meat, using drones to monitor land, and others. 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 and here.

It's been dramatic
Cooper highlighted how food and agriculture has grown dramatically as a sector in terms of its focus. “We have seen a real transition in the last four or five years when only specialist funds focused on it,” he said. “We are seeing more interest from generalist funds and ESG funds. There has been a lot of high net worth interest and interest from North American institutional LPs.”

Cibus product offering, which includes table olives and almonds, has transitioned over 2,000 hectares to organic extra virgin olive oil production, and introduced water treatment and recycling systems and increased solar capacity. “Innoliva was the first buyout executed by Cibus Fund I. We engaged an excellent management team, which transformed a humdrum olive oil producer into a business that has produced excellent financial returns while espousing world-class sustainability practices,” Rob Appleby, founder and CIO of Cibus Capital, said in a note. 

The Cibus fund 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.

Cibus II
REST expects its investment in Cibus Fund II to deliver long-term value for its members while growing its exposure to companies at the forefront of sustainable agriculture practices.

Investments include 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.  

It also includes 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,” Appleby said. 

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. 

“Farmers and landowners have taken center stage in the debate about food security and environmental conservation. This coincides with a clearer view of the risks and opportunities faced by investors and stakeholders alike in food production,” Appleby added. 

“Agri-food technology provides the potential for unprecedented positive change across resource efficiency, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, biodiversity, food security, human health and animal welfare,” Cooper added.

Cooper has a mixed background in finance, food and agriculture. He worked at Morgan Stanley, before buying his dream farm in Dorset, southwest England, 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.

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