Avrio Capital invests $20M in Phytelligence, M2, Morris Industries

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By Ted Liu

Avrio Capital Inc. announced that its third institutional late stage venture fund, Avrio Ventures Limited Partnership III, has invested approximately $20 million in three new investments.

“In a typically slow period for deploying capital, we are very pleased to have completed three platform investments that highlight the entire spectrum of the Avrio investment strategy. Flexing from agricultural technology to food tech and encompassing all the novel and innovative agribusinesses in-between, we continue to tune our investment strategy identifying world class companies in our verticals of interest,” commented Aki Georgacacos, Managing Partner of the Fund.

Avrio committed $6 million alongside multiple co-investors to support Burien, Washington based Phytelligence Inc., the fund’s first investment in plant genetics and propagation. The company has developed a novel approach for tree-crops to grow during their early days in a nutrient rich gel which allows for genetically confirmed, virus free and generally more robust plant material.

“The MultipHy technology platform engineered by Phytelligence is truly transformative. The speed, genetic certainty, and overall robustness of the plants developed material offers the type of disruptive technological advancement we have been seeking to address worldwide rootstock shortages,” commented Mike McGee, Managing Director at Avrio Capital.

Avrio participated in the Series A financing for Organic Mushroom Nutrition (M2) of Carlsbad, California, alongside of White Road Investments, a previous co-investment partner in Fresh Hemp Foods which was awarded CVCA Deal of the Year in 2015.

“Functional ingredients promoting health and wellness, while respecting sustainable practices have been a core focus of Avrio’s mandate since inception. We’re excited about the prospects for expanding the breadth of opportunities to exploit the functional health benefits of mushrooms across multiple channels,” commented Jim Taylor, Chairman and co-founder at Avrio.

Avrio completed its quarter by completing the purchase of a majority stake in Saskatoon based, Morris Industries Ltd., one of the last remaining independent manufacturers of innovative, technology based agricultural equipment.

Founded in 1929 by George Morris, the Company has grown from its modest Saskatchewan roots to a global business with over 250 dealers worldwide, and 300,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity across four continents.

“We are delighted to have attracted Avrio to lead the recapitalization of our company,” commented Ben Voss, the incoming Chief Executive Officer. “Their depth of food and agriculture expertise and track record will be essential to re-invigorating the innovation and farmer inspired creativity that has underpinned Morris since its inception. We welcome Steve and Aki onto our Board of Directors, and look forward to working closely with the entire team in building the Morris franchise into the world’s leading brand for precision and reliability.” Steven Leakos, the lead partner from Avrio on the investment commented: “With its strong market position and a renewed commitment to the Company’s core values of innovation and service that has built the Morris legacy, we believe the opportunities to grow this business are limitless.”

After completion of these three investments, Avrio III has deployed and reserved approximately 60% of its investment capital out of Fund III. The fund which closed with total commitments approaching $110M in January 2016 has finalized nine investments. The fund is actively seeking quality opportunities to deploy $2-$10M in dynamic, growing agricultural and food technology companies seeking growth or expansion capital to address global issues related to health, wellness and sustainability.

photo credit: Morris Industries