Flagship Pioneering led an $88.9 million Series C for Invaio Sciences that will help the agricultural science startup bring its debut offerings to market within two years, said a general partner at Flagship.
Ignacio Martinez – who also serves as founding chief executive at Cambridge, Massachusetts-headquartered Invaio – told Agri Investor the company has attracted more agriculture-focused investors and strategics earlier in its development, than other relevant companies developed by Flagships such as Indigo Agriculture, Inari and CIBO Technologies.
Unnamed investors in Invaio’s late May Series C, he said, include experts in the agricultural space with a global understanding of the industry.
Martinez explained that since its 2018 founding, Invaio has been pursuing research to develop an integrated approach to pest management in harmony with the industry’s broader shift from chemicals to a biological approach.
He added that an uptick in activity among industry incumbents who in recent years have been preoccupied with integrating large acquisitions, has combined with a positive turn in the overall ag cycle to help propel a broad increase in interest in ag science among investors.
“We are interacting with more and more groups that are keen on understanding how agtech and agricultural technologies can be a good sector for investing and understanding that this is not a short-term play, it’s more of a long-term play,” said Martinez, who leads ag-focused investments at Cambridge-headquartered Flagship, which also invests in healthcare and therapeutics.
“In the case of Invaio, we are not thinking about generating revenues in five years, we are generating revenues at the end of this year or beginning of next year.”
Propriety elements of the company’s approach, Martinez explained, include the combination of active ingredients within its biological inputs, a 3D-printed device for physical injection into trees and biological delivery systems allowing for foliar applications and seed treatment. Invaio has also developed its own mode of action for the insect microbiome and is working on products to help sustain the health of bees.
In the near-term, Invaio has been working with olive farmers in Italy to test an approach to managing the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen, while also developing products focused on combatting citrus greening and reducing carbon emissions in crop production, said Martinez. He added that the company has distinct platforms focused on row crops, vegetables and perennials, the last of which being the most likely to be sold first.
“In some segments, we will go direct and work with growers, that’s what we are doing in perennials. In other areas, we will partner with other startups or bigger companies or retailers,” Martinez said. “We are open-minded as to how we are going to go to market in the future.”
The Series C brought Invaio’s total capital raised to $142 million and included investments by Waltham, Massachusetts-headquartered venture capital firm Stage 1 Venture; Dublin, Ireland-headquartered investment consultants Bluwave Innovation Capital; and Alexandria Venture Investments, a strategic venture capital platform affiliated with New York Stock Exchange-listed life sciences-focused real estate investors Alexandria.
“People are realizing the world is transitioning in many dimensions for many industries, and agriculture is one of them,” Martinez said of the fundraising environment. “There are more people interested in the sector because it has a humongous ESG component, so people are looking at this area now – which I think is great for the ecosystem.”
Flagship closed its seventh Origination Fund, which Martinez declined to address directly, on $1.1 billion in April 2021. Affiliate title Buyouts reported in late May that the success of Flagship-backed Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine inspired the firm to re-open the vehicle, which is now seeking $3 billion.