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Rob Leclerc Brings Farm Technology, Ideas, and Money Together

10 Up & Comers: Rob Leclerc

Need some capital to jump-start your idea for an agricultural technology company? Rob Leclerc would be a good guy to know.

He’s the CEO of AgFunder, a technology funding company located in the heart of Silicon Valley in California. He brings together farm technology ideas and money.

Leclerc, 44, grew up on a farm in Canada, and earned his doctorate at Yale University. “I left academia knowing one thing for certain,” he says. “I wanted my life to have positive impact. And in agriculture, I saw an industry that had largely been neglected by the mainstream.”

He and his business partner, Michael Dean, estimate that the global food and agriculture system will see a $2 trillion investment deficit over the next decade. AgFunder is helping fill that gap.

They use a three-pronged strategy, Leclerc explains.

  1. Access to opportunity. “We allow investors, big and small, to invest in a managed fund that will invest in a number of technology companies, or investors can choose to invest alongside us in individual opportunities that we list on our platform.”
  2. Build awareness and investor literacy. “We publish daily on our news site and engage with the community through social media. We publish the industry-leading news forum.”
  3. Transform the industry. “We focus on agricultural technologies that will mature over the next three to five years. They will make agricultural operations run more efficiently, and this makes the space more attractive to additional investors.”

Leclerc (above) and his partner, Michael Dean, founded AgFunder in 2013. Now, it’s the largest community of investors and entrepreneurs in the agricultural technology industry, and has helped 16 companies raise $35 million for technology development.
Leclerc says both investors and entrepreneurs typically find AgFunder through their news sites and reports. “We've published over 1,000 articles from the industry’s best thought leaders. When investors or companies start doing their homework, or Google it, they inevitably find us.”

AgFunder has many success stories already under its belt. One is a company called SWIIM, which gives growers the ability to monetize their water rights and dial back on their use without degrading that right.

“After a couple months we connected SWIIM to a large Australian farming family that has a professional investment arm,” says Leclerc. “The deal wouldn’t have come together without AgFunder bridging the geographical boundaries.”

aWhere is another company AgFunder helped. It uses remote sensing data to create climate prediction models, and is equally useful to big seed companies and small farmers.

“The aWhere team really knows their business, but they’re not experts at raising capital,” says Leclerc. “We helped them close a deal in about three months. In fact, they had their pick of investors.”

San Francisco is a good home for AgFunder, Leclerc thinks. “Raising capital in this sector is hard, especially if you’re not located in a place like Silicon Valley. There’s a lot of risk capital here.

“Back in 2012 and 2013, it was like the dark ages in agricultural technology. But that’s all changed. I like seeing the impact that AgFunder has on helping to grow the ecosystem of farm technology. Not a week goes by where someone doesn’t thank us for our impact on their business and the industry.” 

Leclerc is featured in Successful Farming magazines 10 Up & Comers articles running in the June issue.

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