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Months after final close, Pontifax backs biostimulants

The firm has led a funding round for a company focused on ‘high-value’ and row crops, a sector its co-founder describes as agtech’s ‘single fastest-growing area.’

Inocucor, a US maker of biological crop inputs, has hit a $9.5 million second close on its Series B funding round.

Participants in the second close, led by California-based Pontifax AgTech, include Canadian firms Cycle Capital Management and Desjardins Innovatech as well as Denver-headquartered Cairn Investments, all of them existing investors in the company.

The $29 million first close had been led by TPG Alternative & Renewable Technologies, a platform of San Francisco-based buyout giant TPG. Inocucor has now raised about $48 million, Agri Investor understands.

The milestone comes less than three months after Pontifax reached a $105 million final close on its inaugural pooled fund, thanks to contributions from institutions and a strategic investor. The vehicle had an initial target of $100 million and a hard-cap of $125 million.

In October, Pontifax AgTech co-founder and managing director Phil Erlanger told Agri Investor that the firm was eyeing a couple of prospective investments that could be announced in the very short term. He had singled out the food safety, crop protection systems, water treatment and precision farming sectors as potential targets.

‘Superior alternatives’

Inocucor uses a fermentation process combining bacteria, yeasts and fungi into biostimulants that improve crop yields, shorten growing periods and enhance soil quality for farmers and greenhouse growers. It is also developing microbial products that aim to stem serious diseases in potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries.

“Biologicals are currently the single fastest-growing area within AgTech, with microbial discovery platforms that produce more sustainable, superior alternatives to traditional agrochemicals poised to gain far greater adoption among growers,” said Ben Belldegrun, Pontifax’s other co-founder and managing director.

Inocucor, which employs about 40 staff in Montreal and the US, has earmarked the funds to accelerate commercialization through the increased production and marketing of its “first- and second-generation biostimulant products,” the company said.

The sector has been gaining traction of late, including from some sizeable institutions. Boston-based Indigo Ag, which combines data analytics software with microbial treatment to produce seeds that require fewer inputs, closed on an extra $156 million in fresh equity last autumn from an investor pool that included the Alaska Permanent Fund.