Crop protection biotech company raises $3m in Series A

Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, the food and agri focused VC firm, led the round alongside farmland fund manager Fall Line Capital, in Asilomar Bio's first institutional round.

Asilomar Bio, a San Francisco-based biotech company developing drought and weed tolerance products for crops, has raised $3 million in Series A capital.

Fundraising was co-led by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, the food and agri venture capital fund, and Fall Line Capital, an active buyer and manager of US farmland. Travis Bayer, co-founder and chief technology officer at Asilomar Bio, told Agri Investor that Cultivian and Fall Line were the company’s first institutional investors.

Asilomar is still in development mode and has yet to release its first product which is designed to increase drought tolerance in crops with an initial focus on corn in North America, Bayer said.

“With this round, we are refining and scaling our manufacturing process, growing our agronomy team to demo our product on farms, and developing applications for a wide spectrum of crops,” he said. “We are also developing relationships with potential channel partners to get product to growers upon launch.”

The funding will help Asilomar make its final push to commercialise its technology and products. The product enhances harvest yields and efficiency by improving water use efficiency and combating parasitic weeds and is currently advancing its research on non-toxic products that can be applied to infested fields to eliminate parasitic weeds. The research has received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with field trials in Kenya, according to the company’s website. Asilomar has previously received $1.2 million funding from USDA, Bayer told Agri Investor.

Bayer said Asilomar plans on raising a Series B round before the product is launched, which will be late 2016 to early 2017, to grow the sales agronomy team. And it has a goal of launching with as many early adopters as possible to drive revenue growth after launch.

This is Cultivian Sandbox’s 10th investment from its $90 million fund which launched in 2013. It is the second fund for Cultivian Ventures, the firm launched by Ron Meeusen and Andy Ziolkowski in 2008.

Cultivian Sandbox portfolio companies include Agrivida, a company which develops integrated enzyme solutions for the animal nutrition and health, energy and consumer products industries. The firm also invests in crop production, food safety, cleantech and renewables, according to its website.

Fall Line Capital focuses on farmland investments with a reserved allocation for agtech companies that have the potential to become strategic to its land holdings. The firm closed Fall Line Farms Fund I on $127 million to invest in a combination of farmland and ag-tech startups. Fall Line invested in Swift Navigation, a tech company provides accurate positioning technology for agriculture, drones and construction, last year in August.