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'Agtech' is a new darling for investors

Companies that promise new technologies for farming are pulling in cash

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A farmer holds a handful of rice stalks at a paddy field in Karawang, Indonesia's West Java province.   © Reuters

JAKARTA It came as something of a surprise when Mimosa Technology won the Vietnam round of Seedstars World, a competition for emerging-market startups, in May. There were over 70 fledgling Vietnamese companies taking part in the contest, some focused on sexy areas like health care. MimosaTek, on the other hand, specializes in information technology for agriculture.

Interest in "agtech" -- which covers everything from biotechnology to online food retailing -- is heating up. Last year saw $4.6 billion in venture investment, comprising 526 deals by 672 investors, according to AgFunder, an online investment marketplace for agriculture. Although the pace is expected to slow in 2016 due to the decline in activity by venture capitalists, agtech still managed to rake in $1.8 billion in the first half of 2016, spread over 307 deals involving 425 investors.

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