In April, 2014, the Canadian Business Journal spoke with Aki Georgacacos, Co-founder and Senior Managing Director of Avrio Capital. Avrio, a Calgary-based late-stage venture fund, identifies and invests in innovative food and agricultural companies that provide solutions to three key global challenges: health, wellness, and sustainability.
Aki Georgacacos, with co-founder and Senior Managing Director Jim Taylor, established Avrio in 2006. The firm is based on the belief that maintaining a disciplined, domain focus, and taking active roles in each investment is integral to success. The fund offers its portfolio not only financial support, but strategic advice and access to a global network of resources to facilitate accelerated growth.
“Fundamentally, we believe that innovation in food and agriculture is essential in addressing global challenges related to health, wellness, and sustainability,” explains Georgacacos. Most of Avrio’s operations are headquartered in Canada; however, Avrio’s portfolio companies often have unique attributes and technologies that are relevant on a global scale. The products and technologies developed by these companies can influence the international agricultural and food production arena.
Avrio currently employs 10 staff members, and holds professional associations with the Canadian Venture Capital Association, the Venture Capital Association of Alberta, the Global Ag Investing Series, and the Nutrition Capital Network.
Potential investees must be focused in an agricultural or food sector, with potential for exponential growth. They must also display a strong leadership team, proven competitive advantage, sound business model, and a large addressable market or high-growth niche market opportunity.
“We’re looking for companies with a significant and relevant basis of differentiation within the global market,” says Georgacacos, “These can come from any niche – natural, organic, even GMO. It can cross over from food into the agricultural operations themselves. Avrio is interested in innovative solutions with practical applications.”
Companies in which Avrio invests typically receive an initial investment of $3 to $5 million, and significant guidance as they continue to realize their potential optimal value.
Throughout its short history, Avrio has raised almost $300 million amongst its family of funds. The firm has invested in over 60 firms in food and agriculture sectors.
“When it comes to venture investing in later-stage food and agricultural ventures, Avrio is a pioneer. We were investing in agricultural technology ‘before it was cool,’” says Georgacacos, “We now have a broad international network, and have helped build several large Canadian success stories. Canada has a very natural competitive advantage in this sector and we take great pride at Avrio in having been part of realizing the opportunity on behalf of, and as partners with, some great Canadian entrepreneurs.”
Since the firm’s inception, Avrio has successfully raised two private equity funds; aptly named Avrio I and Avrio II. Each consists of leading edge agricultural science and food technology businesses with proven track records of success. These late-stage capital funds are funded by a mix of private investors, institutions, pension plans, endowments, and Canadian commercial crown corporations. “We have had tremendous early support from organizations such as Farm Credit Canada and Export Development Corporation in growing the firm. Those groups took significant early risk in stepping out as global forerunners in establishing agriculture and food as a legitimate private capital asset class. We are extremely grateful for their backing, without which Avrio could not have achieved success.”
Prominent Canadian businesses associated with Avrio include WolfTrax Inc., a producer of plant nutrition products that was recently sold to Compass Minerals Inc. in a C$95M transaction. Previously, Avrio was awarded the CVCA Deal of the Year Award for its investment in Brookside Foods Ltd. Other investments include, Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture, Sunworks Farm, an Alberta-based organic meat supplier, and Baby Gourmet, a creator of organic, gourmet baby food.
One of the most recent companies to join Avrio’s portfolio is Hortau Technologies Inc. Hortau engineers web-based, wireless irrigation management technology for large and small-scale agricultural use. The company first gained Avrio’s support in January 2013, when Avrio’s $3 million investment allowed the precision irrigation company to further expand across North America.
Avrio is currently moving along with fundraising for its third private equity fund, Avrio III. The Avrio III fund will be the firm’s largest to date, with a targeted fundraising of up to C$150M.
For more information on Avrio Capital, please visit www.avriocapital.com