Rob Appleby (left) and Alastair Cooper, Cibus Capital
Rob Appleby (left) and Alastair Cooper, Cibus Capital

Sustainable food and agriculture investor Cibus Capital has closed Cibus Fund II (CFII) at $510 million and Cibus Enterprise Fund II (CEII) at $135 million.

CFII is a private equity vehicle that aims to scale sustainable businesses that produce, process or distribute healthy foods. CEII is a venture capital fund that invests in early stage agritech companies.

The two funds were both brought to market in May 2021, according to the New Private Markets database. The private equity vehicle was initially targeting between $500 million to $600 million and the venture fund between $100 million and $200 million, Cibus founder Rob Appleby told NPM. Cibus Fund I and Cibus Enterprise Fund I closed at $322 million and $65.5 million, respectively, in 2019.

Appleby said that funds had been raised in a two-and-a-half-year period “where the headwinds for capital raising have been enormous”.

“We would be lying if we said it wasn’t difficult,” he told NPM. “What has kept us all very attached to this strategy has been the fact that many investors, whether they’re large institutions or retail investors, have really cottoned on to the idea of sustainability or decarbonisation or impact in whichever form it comes.”

Investors in the two funds include Los Angeles County Employee Retirement Association – which provided $80 million to CFII and $20 million to CEII, according to NPM‘s database – and Australian pension fund Retail Employees Superannuation Trust.

While some investors took an interest in both vehicles, the funds had largely separate LP bases, Appleby said, due to the differences between the strategies: “Generally, on the private equity side we are deliberately trying to improve what’s going on in farming. Lesser footprint, lower water consumption, etc. But on the enterprise side, definitionally and intentionally, we’re out to disrupt and to have impact. And I think the two really attract different types of investors.”

Though they have different investment theses, the two vehicles are closely related. Appleby added: “These two funds grew out of each other. That was by design. As an owner of farms, if you’re not the lowest cost producer and embracing the technology allowing you to be the lowest cost producer, you’re just not going to survive. So that trialling of this technology, I think, is very important. And by the same token, if you’re pitching to be part of a start-up or growth company in a hot sector, you have a much bigger calling card if you can say ‘listen, I can trial this’.”


CEII is 38 percent deployed and has a returns target of 30 percent gross IRR. Ventures head Alastair Cooper was optimistic of the fund’s prospects after a difficult period for the VC market. He said: “We believe the next few years offer a real sweet spot in terms of the ability to invest capital prudently for the longer term. Valuations have come back, but the tailwinds driving this whole food transition need have only grown.”

On sectors of particular interest, he added: “We’re particularly interested in areas like robotics and automation and that isn’t about just replacing large scale gas guzzling machinery with small lightweight electric robots, it’s critically about replacing things like labour. Labour shortage is really becoming extremely acute and will only get worse.

“We see a real revolution taking place in the biological space. Second generation biologicals, driven by the second generation of AI, plus the genomic manipulation that’s coming through is an area we’re really interested in.”

CFII has deployed more than $100 million. Appleby said: “We’re on track there to look at 20 percent gross IRR. We have a target of 15 to 19 percent IRR for real asset type investments, and we have a target of 20 to 25 percent for private equity type investments.”