Sawtelle-based Pontifax AgTech Management has wrapped a $302 million investment fund, riding the technology wave sweeping the food and agriculture sector.

The Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund II has already selected its first portfolio company investment, Santa Monica-based Provivi Inc., which developed a biological crop protection technology that resists inects. Pontifax co-founder and Managing Partner Ben Belldegrun expects the $302 million fund to make private-market investments of $20 million to $40 million in 10 to 12 companies. The first fund raised $105 million in 2017.

The investment theme across the second fund, according Pontifax co-founder and Managing Partner Phil Erlanger, is “food and agriculture opportunities over the next five years from a portfolio perspective.” 

The fund, which has a 10-year duration, is backed by domestic and international institutional investors, state pension funds, university endowments, foundations, large-scale growers and family offices. 
Erlanger and Belldegrun, who grew up in Brentwood and have known each other for 20 years, spent most of their careers in the agri-business financial sector.

Pontifax is in the venture capital arena at the growth stage for its portfolio entrepreneurial agri-business companies. It selects proven business models and technologies on the cusp of scaling up. The firm has a total of $465 million under management and was founded in 2014.

Belldegrun said some sections of agribusiness are not yet digitized but will be soon, setting the stage for “a huge influx of data and information technology as a disrupter.” 

Other parts of the industry are up to date in terms of technology utilization, according to Belldegrun, who added that advances “are driving innovation to improve productivity and sustainability in the food and agriculture sector.”

Belldegrun cited four investment-theme areas in the ag industry that are attractive: life sciences that embrace genetics and human therapeutics; food-health nutrition, whose importance is reinforced by needs stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic; agronomics that include farm management software and robotics used in food production; and supply chain that spans food safety, traceability and waste management.

Pontifax AgTech Management

Founded: 2014
Headquarters: Sawtelle
Managing Partners: Ben Belldegrun, Phil Erlanger
Business: Venture capital

Assets Under Management: $465 million

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