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Finistere, IFC Team Up on New Ag Fund Willow Hill Ventures

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Agricultural technology startups face challenges finding the capital to scale their companies, but they also struggle to find the farmland to test their products. Two companies experienced in agricultural investments have come together to launch a new venture fund that they say can address both problems.

Willow Hill Ventures combines the agtech investment experience of San Diego-based Finistere Ventures with the land assets of International Farming Corporation, a Kinston, NC-based firm that invests in farmland. The companies say Willow Hill could fill the Series B funding gap facing agtech startups, and help gain traction in the marketplace. The announcement of the new fund on Tuesday came during Global AgInvesting, an annual global agriculture investment conference in New York this week.

Finistere and IFC aren’t yet discussing how much money Willow Hill has to work with but in addition to providing capital, they claim that their new fund is the first one offering dedicated land and proprietary scientific testing programs that will enable companies to test new products quickly. These tests, they say, can be done on different crops, in different weather conditions, and with different agricultural partners.

Spencer Maughan, a partner at Finistere, said in a written statement that Willow Hill will test a mix of ag technologies and then fund and scale up those that work best. In particular, Willow Hill will focus on technologies in informatics and big data, novel farm systems, food quality and nutrition, and genetics and seed technologies that help farming become more sustainable, productive, and profitable.

Willow Hill’s launch comes a little more than a year after Finistere raised $150 million for a fund focused on agricultural biotechnology. With that fund, Finistere is working with partners to identify potential agricultural technology investments. Those partners include Calgary-based AVAC and Bayer CropScience, which bases its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park, NC.

 Photo of corn field by Flickr user fishhawk via a Creative Commons license.