The Gates Foundation and Syngenta back $34.5m round in AgBiome

The North Carolina-based agtech company raised $34.5m to launch its first biological fungicide product, Howler.

The Gates Foundation and Syngenta Ventures have backed a $34.5 million Series B round in AgBiome, an agtech company that develops microbes for use in agriculture as biological products. Other new investors in the financing round included University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) and Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, according to a statement.

“Poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia face tremendous hurdles, such as unproductive soil, plant diseases, pests and drought,” Vipula Shukla, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement. “This investment will ensure that AgBiome’s expertise is applied to creating new, affordable tools for these farmers that will protect their staple crops from pests and diseases.”

Funding will used for research and development of the company’s first product, known internally as Howler, a natural fungicide that can be used by organic farmers, Agri Investor learned. The product is expected to go to market in late 2016.

AgBiome currently has seven projects in the pipeline targeting a range of areas including Asian soybean rust control, lepidopteran control, nematode control, sucking pest control and disease control. A project focused on soil-borne disease control is nearing its final stage, with pre-marketing and final sales imminent.

The company’s Series A round closed on $17.5 million in April 2013, backed by prominent venture capital firms such as Polaris Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris and Harris Group, Innotech Advisers and Monsanto Growth Ventures, all of which participated in the Series B round.

AgBiome currently has 50 employees and plans to move into a new 30,000 square foot facility early next year, which will allow them to expand the team to 70 people. The new facility includes a 5000-square foot greenhouse.