Mike Cannon-Brookes is backing a $30 million VC fund to make Australian farming greener

- November 18, 2019 2 MIN READ
Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and his wife Annie are backing a new $30 million venture fund to make agriculture more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.

The Tenacious Ventures fund will invest in early-stage startups focused on the agricultural supply chain.

The Cannon-Brookes family are backing the fund via their private investment vehicle, Grok Ventures, with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation also tipping in $8 million as cornerstone investment via its $200 million Clean Energy Innovation Fund.

Mike Cannon-Brookes said innovation in the agriculture sector was “desperately needed across the world” for sustainability.

“Kick-starting this industry in Australia will take guts and expertise, and the CEFC brings both,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that new ideas in agriculture will play a massive role in reducing carbon emissions, while also delivering return on investment. The economic upside for Australia’s economy is also huge.

Tenacious Ventures was co-founded by agrifood tech pioneers Sarah Nolet and Matthew Pryor.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said there was a shortage of institutional capital in local agrifood tech, despite Australian being a major food exporter, with the per capita investment a fraction of the comparable investment in New Zealand, Israel and the US.

“The agricultural sector poses a demanding climate change challenge: how to produce more food, more efficiently, for a growing population amid a more extreme climate, while also reducing greenhouse gas intensity and emissions,” he said.

Australian agriculture is a major exporter of food and fibre, feeding more than 60 million people per year. We are experts at efficient, climate adaptive food production – Australian farmers reduced the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of agriculture by 63% between 1996 and 2016.

“But more needs to be done to develop and export agricultural technology that improves the efficiency of production on a global scale.”

The initial Tenacious Ventures fund plans to invest in up to 20 early-stage agrifood tech companies, looking to lift farm efficiency and food and fibre yields, while cutting inputs and emissions.

Experts predict that if the global population reaches a predicted 10 billion by 2050, agriculture output will need to jump by at least 60% compared to 2005–2007 output.

Meanwhile, the the broader food system, including growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transport and consumption, is responsible for an estimated 30% of global emissions.