Calgary Herald

Agtech investment firm to set up new HQ in city

- MADELINE SMITH masmith@postmedia.com twitter.com/meksmith

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.”

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