Syngenta Ventures portfolio company PowerPollen’s $13 million Series B round was aided by investor demand for exposure to essential industries, said the start-up’s chief executive and co-founder Todd Krone.
“They [investors] only want to think about essential industries,” Krone told Agri Investor. “The fact that we work in ag really helped us through the pandemic and gave us a competitive advantage against others seeking investment money.”
Ankeny, Iowa-headquartered PowerPollen will use capital raised in the mid-August funding round to support continued adoption of its technology that collects, preserves and applies pollen on demand to increase crop yields.
“There are a lot of investors out there who see the investment field decreasing,” Krone said of sentiment among the angel and family office investors whose commitments of up to $1.5 million constituted 75 percent of the round.
The remaining quarter was provided by Iowa-headquartered business development organization the Ag Venture Alliance, the Iowa Corn Growers Association and a strategic investor that Krone – who spent more than 15 years as a seed-focused senior research director at DuPont Pioneer before founding PowerPollen in 2015 – declined to identify.
According to Syngenta Ventures’ website, early equity investors into PowerPollen included two highly recognized global agribusinesses that Krone declined to identify, beyond confirming they were not the unnamed strategic investor that led the $13 million Series B.
PowerPollen’s patented technology collects, preserves and applies pollen, allowing for significantly increased seed and grain production of wind-pollinated crops. Whereas corn pollen typically only lives for an hour or less, Krone explained, PowerPollen’s patented preservation system increases the lifespan of corn pollen beyond eight months, facilitating storage and efficiently timed application. The company’s machinery has been tested for use in corn in Texas, Puerto Rico and elsewhere, and deployed on at least 22 customer fields across Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.
The start-up announced a commercial agreement in April under which ag chemical and seed supplier Corteva Agriscience licensed its pollination technology for commercial corn seed production, and gained access to its “expertise and algorithms” for an undisclosed price. In July, PowerPollen struck a research partnership with BASF through which its technology will be applied to the German chemical company affiliate’s proprietary hybrid wheat program.
“The seed companies are our first customer, but eventually, as we get to make this more and more efficient, it will also apply to the farmer,” Krone explained.
The larger investment community, he added, is also very interested in how successfully PowerPollen is able to expand the applicability of its technology from corn into other staples like corn grain, wheat and rice. Krone said he expects PowerPollen to have commercialized its technology for use on at least one of those crops within the next four years.
“That is a huge driver for investor interest; seeing more shots on goal,” said Krone. “We have other crops where there is interest – other wind pollinated crops – and even other crops that are not.”