Agtech investment firm to set up new HQ in city
A global agri-food venture capital firm will make Calgary its Canadian headquarters, with the aim of helping agriculture startups grow.
SVG Ventures Thrive announced Wednesday it is setting up in Calgary with up to $2.5 million in funding from the city's Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, the provincial government and Alberta Innovates. It's the first agriculture technology investment for OCIF, which has a mandate to support development of Calgary's innovation and tech sector.
OCIF board chair Mark Blackwell said the fund's contribution will help foster the “agri-food tech renaissance” in Canada, and noted that while it's the first investment in the sector, it won't be the last.
“Despite agri-food tech having a blow-up year in 2020 … Canada represented only 1.55 per cent of total capital investment in technology in comparison to our peers across the globe,” he said.
OCIF and Alberta Innovates are contributing $1 million each, while the provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry is giving $500,000 in grants to Olds College to support the Thrive Canada accelerator.
The OCIF agreement will see Thrive Canada select and mentor at least 25 Canadian agri-food startups. That includes a target of four Calgary-based companies and 10 additional companies in Alberta.
Thrive Canada will also hold two investment forums alongside the Calgary Stampede so Canadian agricultural technology startups can get more exposure to investors.
The company's founder and CEO John Hartnett said technology and innovation are crucial for finding solutions to sustainably grow food for the world's population.
SVG Ventures is planning to raise a Canadian fund by 2022 to invest in Canadian agricultural startups, and Hartnett said part of the goal is to put Alberta-based companies on the radar for global investment.
“If entrepreneurs can go solve some of these challenges, it really helps farmers do more with less in a sustainable way,” he said.
Thrive is starting out hiring three people, with plans to expand.
Hartnett said Calgary was chosen for the firm's Canadian base partly because of a strong talent pipeline of entrepreneurs.
They also wanted to set up in a place where agriculture is a strength.
Alberta's Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer said the growth of technology companies in Alberta is an encouraging sign for the future.
“It's quite an exciting time for us to see Alberta get on the map,” he said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi added agriculture has always been a crucial piece of Alberta's economy, and it's a good move to invest in opportunities to solve global food challenges.
“It's the right thing to do from an economic perspective; it's the right thing to do from a social development perspective. It's one of the most powerful anti-poverty tools we have.”