This startup created a natural alternative to chemical pesticides. Check out the pitch deck crop cleaner AgBiome used to raise $116 million.
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- Natural pesticide startup AgBiome has just raised $116 million from Blue Horizon.
- The “crop protection” firm uses bacteria naturally found in soil, plants, and insects.
- We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck it used to raise its Series D.
A startup creating natural pesticides for crops from bacteria found in soil has raised $116 million in fresh funding.
North Carolina-based startup AgBiome develops natural pesticides using microorganisms — or cells like bacteria — collected from soil, plants, and insects. Pesticides are typically used on crops and plants to prevent or treat pest infections.
Artificial pesticides, which are widely used in the farming industry, can harm the environment and can cause considerable damage to wildlife as the chemicals are introduced into soil, The Guardian reported.
AgBiome aims to provide sustainable and environmentally friendlier crop protection alternative, a move driven by consumer demand, climate change, and concern of growing resistance to artificial pesticides.
The company takes the samples it collects from the likes of soil and insects and isolates strains of bacteria it believes has properties that will be useful in controlling a fungal disease or “killing a certain type of caterpillar.”
There are tightening rules around the use of pesticides. Last month US the Environmental Protection Agency banned chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide that has been used since 1965, after links to brain damage in children emerged, according to the New York Times.
Founded in 2013, AgBiome has one fungicide currently on the market but plans to have 11 products, including insecticides and herbicides, or weed killer, by 2025.
The company hopes to one day rival household names such as Syngenta, DuPont spin-out Corteva, and Bayer CropScience, which each use synthetic chemicals in some products.
Founders and co-CEOs Eric Ward and Scott Uknes, who have been “chums” since their PhDs in 1982, had the idea for AgBiome during a bicycle ride in summer 2012. The pair, already working in the industry, were frustrated with the lack of innovation in the agriculture-chemical space.
“The industry was very successful at finding new chemicals that have fundamentally new ways of killing diseases, insects, and pests that plague crops per annually,” Ward said. “That’s sort of fallen off a cliff over the last 40 years, so there’s a burning need for new ways to control diseases, insects, and weeds.”
“The microbial world all around us is this vast, largely uncapped, source of biological activity,” Ward added. Only a small portion has been “mined” for biological activity, meaning there is “effectively an infinite resource of molecules out there”.
Coupled with this, the chief executive said, is growing consumer concern over where food comes from, establishing a larger trend toward cropping systems that are more sustainable and that don’t have “heavy synthetic chemical input.”
To enter new markets, AgBiome is partnering with incumbents to produce products made up of a mixture of artificial and natural chemicals. This will slowly reduce the industry’s reliance on traditional products while offering familiarity to farmers, Ward said.
The company has its sights set on Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Rim.
The Series D was co-led by Blue Horizon, a food-focused European firm, and Novalis LifeSciences, a US VC that focuses on life science.
It brings the AgBiome’s total raised to $233 million, meaning the latest cash injection accounts for around half of its total funding.
With a current headcount of 100, the company plans bring 20 new starters on board to scale its scientific and commercial teams.
Check out AgBiome’s pitch deck below.