Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, Chicago, announced the closing of its third venture capital fund, Cultivian Sandbox Food & Agriculture Fund III, a $135 million fund that invests in food and agriculture technology companies to address global megatrends, including increasing demand for protein, food safety, traceability, nutrition and resource efficiency.

Cultivian Sandbox invests in early stage companies that can positively impact today’s complex landscape.

"Twenty years ago, the public wanted food that was healthy, inexpensive and tasty," says Nick Rosa, managing director. "Now, in addition to those requirements, there's greater interest in how our food is made and where it comes from. Consumers want foods that are sustainably produced and traceable, with benefits beyond basic nutrition. We're investing in startups that can help meet these new standards for productivity, environmental sustainability and social responsibility."

Fund III's investors include Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago; Corteva Agriscience, Indianapolis, Ind.; Ecolab, Saint Paul, Minn.; Elanco, Greenfield, Ind.; Griffith Foods, Alsip, Ill.; GROWMARK, Bloomington, Ill.; Koch Ag & Energy Solutions, Dodge City, Kan.; R.D. Offutt Co., Fargo, N.D.; Smithfield Foods, Smithfield, Va.; and Sumitomo Chemical America, New York. Cultivian Sandbox works with its strategic investors to source market and technology insights and facilitate collaboration with agri-food tech startups.

"We value the experience of the Cultivian team, and their engagement with us as fund investors," says Neal Gutterson, senior vice president and CTO of Corteva Agriscience, agriculture division of DowDuPont. "Cultivian continues to be an ag and food industry thought leader, providing us with forward-leaning visibility into promising technologies for better meeting the needs of farmers and consumers."

Last year, Fund III invested in Full Harvest, which built a B2B marketplace for imperfect and surplus produce, aiming to reduce food waste while creating an additional revenue stream for farmers.

Fund III is also focusing on sustainable production on the farm.

"Until recently, the task of protecting crops from weeds, diseases and insects fell exclusively to synthetic chemistry. It did a marvelous job of keeping food supply ahead of population growth," says Ron Meeusen, managing director of Cultivian Sandbox. "Now that consumers want alternatives to synthetic chemicals, the industry is adapting. Fund III will finance biological and physical alternatives that address consumer demands."