CropBiome raises €1.3m to grow its sustainable agritech business

26 Jul 2022

HBAN consultant Niamh Sterling and CropBiome CEO Sean Daly. Image: CropBiome

Based at NovaUCD, CropBiome will use the funding to create new roles and launch its products by mid-2025.

Irish agritech start-up CropBiome has raised €1.3m to expand its team and invest in its products for farmers.

Born out of research from Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin (UCD), CropBiome sources, selects, ferments, characterises and tests microbes that are formulated into biological products such as seed dressings for use in agriculture.

The aim is to help farmers reduce dependence on chemicals and fertilisers for growing healthy crops, even in drought conditions.

CropBiome is based at NovaUCD, the university’s hub for entrepreneurs and new ventures.

It currently has a biobank of more than 600 microbes, which the company is testing to determine their impact on stress resistance, nutrient use efficiency and overall crop yields.

CEO Sean Daly said that CropBiome aims to help the EU meet its goals to reduce chemical use in agriculture, including fertilisers, fungicides and pesticides. A reduction in fertiliser use of at least 20pc by 2030 will be needed to achieve these targets across the EU, according to the European Commission.

The start-up also targets the reduction of nutrient losses, while ensuring that there is no deterioration in soil fertility.

“Initially, we will aggressively tackle the European grain market – which represents a significant proportion of the world’s total grain production,” said Daly.

“We aim to enter the market at a similar price point as existing chemical seed coating products with our biological sustainable alternative and believe that this will give us a major competitive advantage.”

By 2025, Daly expects that performance in Europe will help CropBiome to expand into North and South America, Australasia and other cereal-producing parts of the world.

The oversubscribed funding round was backed by investors from the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN), the all-island organisation responsible for the promotion of business angel investment. It is a joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland and Invest Northern Ireland.

CropBiome also received backing from DeepIE Ventures and Enterprise Ireland’s high potential start-up funding.

The start-up will use the funding to grow its current team of eight to 12 by the end of 2023. Roles will include lab and field scientists as well as business development professionals to work with partners across Europe and bring its products to market by mid-2025.

The company expects revenues to hit €5m by the end of 2025.

Founded by Prof Fiona Doohan, Prof Trevor Hodkinson and Dr Brian Murphy, CropBiome has won a number of awards including a Trinity Innovation Award earlier this year and an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund award in 2017.

Doohan, who is a professor of plant health at UCD’s School of Biology and Environmental Science, was made a member of the Royal Irish Academy in May for her contributions to science research.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic