ISSUE #63 – The food system is an integral part of our lives, present and future, and it is ripe for innovation. Matthieu Vermersch, Director of the venture capital (VC) fund VisVires New Protein (VVNP) shares with us their VC approach and the VC landscape in Singapore.
Can you tell us about VisVires New Protein? Why focus on food and feed?
VVNP is the first venture fund in Asia focused exclusively on finding disruptive solutions for the global food and feed system. Since 2013, we have been exploring the challenges of the potential shortage of animal protein by 2030. Our research made us realise that the obsolete model of farming coupled with the challenges of climate change was failing in terms of the optimisation of existing resources.
With the lack of innovation, a more demanding consumer and poor economics, it was hard to grasp how an industry of such magnitude could continue to function on such shaky foundations. With my team, we concluded that the sector encompassing food production and nutrition was ripe for innovation and reinvention. Since then, we have identified two additional areas where we think innovation is needed most: making food part of the public health solution and no more part of the health problem, and tackling the deep-rooted issues surrounding food waste, food safety and food traceability.
On top of my team’s experience, our investment ideas are validated by an investment committee consisting of a network of experts from academia and industry, including the former COO of Nestlé, Jose Lopez, and Dr Kenneth Lee who heads the Food, Nutrition & Consumer Care Department of A*STAR Singapore. With capital from our partners, we’ve led investments in two ventures (YNSECT and NURITAS) that are doing well.
VVNP is the first venture fund in Asia focused exclusively on finding disruptive solutions for the global food and feed system.
What do you look for when you back companies?
Companies we like have a solution to real, existing problems within the food and feed value chain. They usually possess unique technologies that can be scaled up and applied to Asia and beyond. These investments are sourced globally and we put in a lot of leg work in developing our pipeline. In any given week, you can expect someone from the team to be on the road attending conferences, meeting universities, research agencies, or attending specific trade shows.
We are ready to back companies that utilise disruptive technologies built upon a strong scientific foundation. It is not always easy to find investments with VC-like returns in the agriculture and food tech space. That is why we have a very high standard when it comes to selecting our investments.
We are ready to back companies that utilise disruptive technologies built upon a strong scientific foundation.
Why have you chosen to set up in Singapore?
Many factors make Singapore an ideal location for our fund and investment activities, from its ubiquitous reputation as one of the easiest places to conduct business to its large ethnic diversity and strong commitment to investing, research, and innovation.
What would improve the VC ecosystem in Singapore/the region?
While the ecosystem is young, Singapore has been moving swiftly in the right direction to promote itself as a fertile ground for start-ups. We’ve seen improvements to ease the regulatory landscape and there are avenues for start-ups to receive early-stage public funding. In time, the culture of taking risks, thinking differently, and being truly innovative will fall into place. Most of today’s well-funded start-ups are localised versions of business models tested elsewhere in the world. We hope that this will evolve in the years ahead.
While the ecosystem is young, Singapore has been moving swiftly in the right direction to promote itself as a fertile ground for start-ups.
From an investors’ perspective, we think that VCs need to receive better recognition as a performing asset class alongside traditional private equity in the region. As a VC fund, we are bringing to the table potential scientific and technological solutions that are what the industry needs to advance and improve its existing production processes. When you come to terms with how much “food” needs to change over the next 10 years, this presents a huge opportunity.
VisVires New Protein is a Venture Fund that focuses on investing in disruptive technologies for the food and feed system. Read more about VisVires New Protein on the French Chamber’s Smart Health platform.
Interview with Matthieu Vermersch, Director of VisVires New Protein
Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #2 2017 “Future Economy”