Why Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Companies?

When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease.

In June after the The New Food Economy-sponsored screening of “From Farms to Incubators” (a mini-documentary that I directed that tells the stories of minority women entrepreneurs in agtech), a lively discussion focused on the challenges of attaining funding ensued.

In the audience was Tinia Pina, the founder and CEO of Re-Nuble and a member of THRIVE IV Accelerator cohort. In 2015, Pina launched Re-Nuble an agtech startup that produces a chemical-free hydroponic fertilizer. Pinia said being part of THRIVE has helped the company significantly, especially when it comes to connecting with growers, agronomists, and food markets outside of New York. But funding remains a challenge and reasons might be driven by the investors in the sector, she said.

Based on her experiences and observations she believes “female investors are less likely to invest with a ‘herd mentality’ that I find most investors gravitate towards.” She continued, “I, personally, find women to be more open minded to unique business models that have the potential to resolve larger problems than the same acute problem often chased by multiple investors.”

Pinia points out that some of the challenge could be the newness of the agtech sector itself.

“Agriculture requires a different type of investor. One who understands the time needed for user adoption and in-field learning as plants need time to prove results as companies need time to prove scale,” she said.

To be sure, AgFunder a leading research and publication for agtech, reported that $10.1 billion went into agrifood tech investment all the way through the supply chain, but only a small percent went to women-led agtech companies. Within the $10.1 billion, investment in farm tech was $4.2 billion.

In many ways agtech isn’t an anomaly.

In 2017, women-led startups across all sectors combined received $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists, according to PitchBook, a data research company. That’s a scant 2% of what went to men.

There is the obvious speculation and assumption that comes with the reality of the challenges. Agtech itself is a niche sector that emerged within the last five years and requires more critical analysis