Adam Anders: "This is a money-cannot-buy opportunity"

Great ideas for feedtech innovation keep pouring in the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge. The big question is: what are the jury members who will eventually pick the winner of the Challenge looking for in the entries they will assess? An interview with Jury member Adam Anders, Managing Partner of agtech investor Anterra Capital.

How hard is it to find the real game changers in agtech?

“In my business, it pays to recognise an idea that is potentially transforming. This is the moment that you say: ‘Wow, this could change everything’. Unfortunately, it is only the first step. Challenging the idea, enriching it and taking it through all phases to proof that it really works… that is the process where all the sweat and tears go into.”

And then… eureka!

“Actually, that is not enough. There are more questions that need good answers. Will it work at reasonable cost? Will the value chain accept it? How can we get it implemented?”

In an earlier contribution to the challenge, it became clear that Anterra Capital is always on the lookout for “companies that are transforming the safety, security and sustainability of global food”. Why the focus on safety, security and sustainability?

“We are convinced that value can only be created in innovation in food and agri when you respect these factors. They are the right to exist in the next generation of food and agri. In our opinion there is no legitimate way to innovate when we ignore these factors. They are ‘minimum standards’.”

What makes, in your opinion, an on-farm validation trial far more desirable and preferable over a sum of money to be spent by the winner at its own discretion?

“If I was an entrepreneur in agtech, I would choose this prize instead of the large sum of cash. I would vastly prefer this, because this is a ‘money-cannot-buy’ opportunity. The key word is ‘access’. It is impossible to get access to Nutreco’s expert service, its world-leading facilities. You cannot just go and rent a dairy cow or rent Nutreco’s analysis laboratory for lifecycle research. Nor its deep industry and market knowledge and network. You get all that and if you pass the test, your idea is ready to get funded – by Anterra or any other party – or whatever you think your next move should be. The winning of this prize is a significant validation that a company is ready for venture capital funding.”

Obviously, all categories are equally important. What issue in the categories do you find particularly pressing or urgent?

“The intensive use of antimicrobial agents in modern food production facilitates the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria, posing a threat to both animal and human health. Therefore, we are looking for companies that are developing solutions to complement or replace these antimicrobial treatments. This could be through smarter monitoring of the animals through software and sensors, leading to early disease detection and a reduction in the use of pharmaceutical agents, or through the use of biological agents in the feed with a different mechanism of action. A second important area of interest would be companies with an expertise in nutrition specifically aimed at young animals. Early life is a pivotal time in the shaping and maturation of the gut microbiome. Knowing how to influence the microbiome early on, can have big positive effects throughout the whole lifespan of the animals.”

It is hard to predict the type and quality of entries that will eventually reach the two-day Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge Event in February. What is the unique quality you are hoping to see at the Event?

“Two things. I would like to see a combination of bold vision and strong entrepreneurship.”