Local geography and resource limitations are driving agricultural tech investments by state-owned investors from the UAE and Singapore.

The UAE is faced with a highly arid environment with limited potential for cropping, while Singapore is a city state where the urban environment allows no opportunity for cultivation. These limitations are spurring investment in the development of protein and plant resources that do not rely on conventional farming operations.

A small but increasingly important area of tech for SOIs relates to agriculture and food production on the back of a potential food security crisis. The dominance of GIC and Temasek in this segment should come as no surprise given Singapore’s lack of sufficient land for crops. 

This month has seen Abu Dhabi’s ADQ sovereign wealth fund’s venture capital platform DisruptAD participate in the US$2.8 million seed funding round for Right Farm, which seeks to address gaps in the fresh produce value chain in the UAE and the wider region through the development of technology that optimises the sourcing and procurement of fresh produce for businesses.

Last year, ADQ unveiled its plans to launch the UAE’s first fresh produce AgTech Park  - in Al Ain Industrial City (AAIC) under Abu Dhabi Ports’ Industrial Cities & Free Zone Cluster - to accelerate sustainable innovation-centric food production and distribution. The purpose is to enable the UAE to become the region’s leading fresh produce farming hub, reducing the nation’s reliance on premium food imports. Once operational, ADQ expects the 200-hectare AgTech Park to have an annual fresh fruits and vegetables production capacity of 39,000 tonnes. The development of the AgTech Park is aligned with ADQ’s strategy to grow a thriving food and agriculture ecosystem for the UAE.

Mansour AlMulla, Group Chief Investment Officer at ADQ, commented: "Efficient AgTech solutions for fresh produce can help the UAE achieve higher production levels and lower water usage, unlocking the economic and environmental benefits of having shorter supply chains.”

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala and the Oman Investment Authority (OIA) have also participated in agtech investment. Last month, OIA participated in a U$85 million Series E fundraising for MycoTechnology, which is developing the capacities of its mushroom fermentation platform, with sights on expanding across key markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In the Middle East, a MycoTechnology spokesperson highlighted the need for regional food security in line with the OIA’s goals: “In the Middle East, we believe interest in food security will drive a rise in plant-based products, and we hope to power that movement with our current and future ingredients.”

At the same time, Mubadala subsidiary Sanad Abu Dhabi backed US$80 million in a Series C funding by Beewise Technologies, an Israeli climatech precision robotics company. Beewise claims it has created a solution to combat the disappearance of bee colonies. Beewise is an artificial-intelligence-based platform that can monitor bees 24/7 and claims to significantly increase pollination capacity and honey production. The Beehome seamlessly detects threats to a honeybee colony such as pesticides and the presence of pests and immediately defends against them.

Singapore is always on the look out for innovation in agriculture to bolster domestic food security. The island city state’s strategic interest combined with Temasek’s appetite for tech venture capital and the emphasis on global sustainable food production is prompting the state-owned investor to deploy capital into agritech solutions.

Agtech is a focus of Temasek’s sustainability agenda. Singapore itself has a vibrant agritech start-up ecosystem as the island nation’s government seeks to strengthen its food resilience and achieving its “30 by 30” goal – which is to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030, up from less than 10% in 2020. Temasek’s investments in agritech has ranged from startups to public companies and included alternative proteins, vertical farming and biotech.

In terms of early-stage start-ups, Temasek has focused on supporting the deep-tech innovation sector in Singapore, to help the country become a global hub for life sciences, foodtech and advanced manufacturing. The Singaporean fund’s investments in agritech has ranged from startups to public companies and included alternative proteins, vertical farming and biotech. 

Temasek has extended its portfolio into urban farming by forging a JV with Leaps by Bayer and by spending US$ 365 million in acquiring an 85% stake in Israel’s Rivulis Irrigation in 2020, which applies smart technology to agricultural systems. Other allocations included US-based Impossible Foods and Australian startup V2Food, both of which stand for ethical consumer choices. Meanwhile, GIC led a US$ 353 million round by Apeel Sciences, which is creating solutions for food waste, and CPP injected US$ 300 million into Perfect Day, which has pioneered its proprietary flora-made dairy proteins.

Related funds ADQ Mubadala Temasek
Related tags AgTech ESG