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Accepted Paper:

Sustainable returns: how venture capital funds imagine their contribution to sustainable food futures through investments into agrifoodtech startups  
Moritz Dolinga (University of M√ľnster)

Short abstract:

Agrifoodtech's rise is fueled by investors seeking impact-driven investment opportunities. This paper explores how Dutch VC fund employees imagine investments into agrifoodtech startups as a contribution to sustainable food futures and how these imaginations impact the emergence of agrifoodtech.

Long abstract:

Agrifoodtech's rise is fueled by investors seeking impact-driven investment opportunities. Building on the triple-win-narrative associated with agrifoodtech, over the last decade, venture capital (VC) funds have successfully attempted to exploit this interest by advertising investments into agrifoodtech startups as an opportunity that not only promise good returns on investments but further contribute to the sustainable transformation of food systems. However, more information is needed about how these financial actors themselves imagine their investments into agrifoodtech startups as a contribution to sustainable food futures and how these imaginations, in turn, shape the development and commercialization processes of agrifoodtech. Building on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the Dutch innovation ecosystem 'Foodvalley, I will explore VC funds' promises of creating 'impact' through investments and their consequences. By analyzing the explicit and tacit assumptions that animate VC fund employees' thinking about the interplay between profit and impact, I will show how these professionals are able to navigate the inherent friction between the two by imagining 'real impact' as both a requirement for and an outcome of successful business creation. Eventually, I argue that a critical analysis of the imaginations, contexts, constraints, and incentives behind the funding of agrifoodtech startups allows us to understand better the forces shaping the emergence of agrifoodtech, as well as to engage in a more informed discussion about who wins and who loses what through digital agriculture.

Traditional Open Panel P210
Digital technologies in food and agriculture: merging STS with Critical Agrifood Studies
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -