Durham, North Carolina-based agtech startup AgBiome has developed one of the most advanced agtech platforms to help farmers fight off crop pests and diseases. To continue expanding in this growing field, the company has raised a $65 million in Series C financing.
The wide-ranging group of investors includes the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), Fidelity Management and Research Company, Polaris Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Innotech Advisers, Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund and Monsanto Growth Ventures.
“This is a watershed moment for AgBiome, and for agriculture,” Elizabeth Claypoole, Chief People Officer, told Hypepotamus.
AgBiome uses a plant’s biological and trait characteristics to identify the specific pesticides and synthetic chemicals that will work best. Their Genesis™ discovery platform, a gene and strain identification system, allows the team to capture and screen various microbiome collections surrounding crop plants for agricultural applications like increasing yield and reducing plant damage.
“We track all information generated by the Genesis platform, including the complete genome sequence of every bacterial strain, detailed lab assay result and field trial performance,” says Claypoole. “This information is all stored in a database which our scientists can access; and it enables us to optimize platform efficiency.”
The company has grown to 90 employees since 2012 in Durham, North Carolina with a total funding of over $135 million to date. Now, they’re releasing physical products, which combine biologicals with synthetic chemicals to mitigate of pesticide resistance.
“Our first product is being marketed this year — probably a record from discovery to registration and product sales,” says Claypoole. First to market is Howler, a biological fungicide for disease control for a variety of specialty crops, the turf and ornamental markets. The goal of AgBiome’s crop protection solutions is to reduce the use of chemicals with more targeted solutions.
This past June, AgBiome received a multi-year Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant with a focus on nematology, or the study of roundworms.
“The grant will support the isolation, sequencing, and testing of microbes associated with African yam production in an effort to discover effective microbial solutions for parasitic nematodes,” says Claypoole. “Our goal is to help farmers world-wide, including the poorest farmers in the world.”
The startup is currently housed in a state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot laboratory and greenhouse facility in Research Triangle Park. Claypoole shares that the location has brought essential relationships to AgBiome as it scales.
“RTP is arguably the best place in the world to have an agricultural biotechnology focused company,” says Claypoole. “Many of the major firms, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, and ADAMA have large activities in the region and additional ag companies like Atticus, Isagro, and Cotton are located here as well. Furthermore, the triangle is home to N.C. State, one of the best agriculture schools in the world, and premier liberal arts and sciences universities including Duke and UNC.”