Press Release

Village Capital and QBE North America Issue Report on Sustainable Food Systems


Washington, DC (January 30, 2019) — Village Capital, which manages the longest-running agriculture accelerator program in the United States, and QBE North America, an integrated specialist insurer, today released a report on entrepreneurs innovating around sustainable food and agriculture practices.

The report covers three areas of innovation: improving efficiency on farms through precision agriculture; reducing food waste; and meeting consumer demand for environmentally-friendly food. The report also contains three takeaways that speak to ongoing conversations about diversity in tech, Silicon Valley’s “monoculture of thought,” and a potential Green New Deal.

“According to a recent report from the journal Nature, the way we farm, transport and consume food is on track to destabilize the planet’s ecosystems, which means more extreme weather events, acidifying oceans, dying forests, soil depletion, droughts and dangerous reductions in air and water quality,” said Allie Burns, Managing Director, Village Capital. “That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are tangible solutions to avoid crossing these lines. They involve improving the efficiency of the world’s farms; significantly decreasing food loss and food waste; and shifting the world’s population towards healthy, plant-based diets.”

“QBE’s commitment to both sustainability and innovation made this partnership with Village Capital a natural fit for us. We remain confident that startups have the ideas to address supply chain inefficiency and extend the shelf life of perishable goods using environmentally sound practices,” said Ted Stuckey, Managing Director, QBE Ventures. “QBE Ventures looks forward to supporting innovation through our continued partnership with Village Capital.”

The report draws on lessons from a three-month investment-readiness program called Food and Agriculture: US 2018 managed by Village Capital in partnership with QBE Foundation, Campbell Soup Company and UBS. The program was designed to train and invest in food and agriculture startups that are expanding access to sustainable, healthy and accessible agricultural goods to drive a better food and agriculture system and featured 12 startups (the full list is below). At the end of the program, two startups, Vega Coffee and Wexus Technologies, were selected by their peers to receive offers of investment.

“As a Lead Solutions Engineer, my work involves identifying relevant technologies to assist small farmers in the challenges they face,” said Brad Brasel, Lead Solutions Engineer, NAU Country – A QBE Insurance Company. “Participating in the Village Capital program keeps us ahead of the curve by allowing access to emerging technologies while giving entrepreneurs deep insight into critical market needs by accelerating the creation of viable solutions.”

This was Village Capital’s fifth investment-readiness program focused on food and agriculture. Those programs have yielded seed-stage investments in 14 companies, including Masienda, Kuli Kuli Foods and Spensa Technologies, which was acquired in 2018 by DTN.

The Food and Ag US 2018 Cohort

  • Athena Intelligence: Provides data driven services for the food and agriculture market, delivering insights that improve quality, crop yield and sustainability.
  • Augean Robotics: On a mission to solve the crippling labor problem faced by farmers by making robots like Wall-E a reality, beginning first with Burro, a robotic following platform for work outdoors.
  • Cambridge Crops Technologies: Creates natural and edible coatings for extending the shelf-life of perishable goods.
  • Cerahelix: Manufactures advanced molecular filters that simplify the wastewater re-use process.
  • Goodr: A sustainable surplus food management company, leveraging technology to combat hunger and reduce food waste.
  • Grow Bioplastics: Developing a platform of naturally degradable and compostable plastics made from lignin, a waste product of the paper and biofuel industry, for applications in agriculture, food service packaging, and beyond.
  • ProteoSense: Provides food processors with a biosensor technology that detects pathogens at the front end of the supply chain in 90 minutes or less.
  • Pulp Pantry: On a mission to transform juice pulp, a neglected resource, into delicious and nutritious snacks that make it easy to eat more servings of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
  • Seal the Seasons: Brings farm-to-table products to grocers year-round by freezing and marketing local food from local farms.
  • SwineTech: Provides technologies to prevent piglet deaths due to disease, starvation, and crushing.
  • Vega Coffee: The first specialty coffee roasted at origin and delivered directly to customers in the US within 5 days of roasting. Vega Coffee upends the coffee supply chain by training women farmers in Latin America to roast and package their own coffee; customers receive unique curated coffees via subscription, and Vega’s farmer roasters earn up to 4x more income than they would through the typical supply chain.
  • Wexus Technologies: Wexus Technologies Inc is an IoT software company that empowers farmers and food processors to automate tasks and reporting, reduce waste and costs, and drive energy and water efficiency with its technology platform that remotely accesses utility data and billing systems.

For more information, reach out to Rustin Finkler at Village Capital (rustin.finkler@vilcap.com).

About Village Capital

Village Capital helps entrepreneurs bring big ideas from vision to scale. Our mission is to reinvent the system to back the entrepreneurs of the future. Our vision is a future where business creates equity and long-term prosperity. Since 2009, we have supported more than 1,000 early-stage entrepreneurs through our investment readiness programs. Our affiliated fund, VilCap Investments, has invested in more than 100 program graduates, including 12 early-stage education companies like Pairin, Landit and Upswing.

About QBE North America

QBE North America, an integrated specialist insurer, is part of QBE Insurance Group Limited, one of the largest insurers and reinsurers worldwide. QBE NA reported Gross Written Premiums in 2017 of $4.6 billion. QBE Insurance Group's 2017 results can be found at www.qbe.com. Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, QBE operates out of 31 countries around the globe, with a presence in every key insurance market. The North America division, headquartered in New York, conducts business through its property and casualty insurance subsidiaries. The actual terms and coverage for all lines of business are subject to the language of the policies as issued. QBE insurance companies are rated "A" (Excellent) by A.M. Best and "A+" by Standard & Poor's. Additional information can be found at www.qbe.com/us, or follow QBE North America on Twitter.