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Ag tech Enko raises $70M, backed by Bill Gates, Nufarm

Jul 27, 2022

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Enko, a Mystic, Connecticut-based startup that wants to make targeted pesticides and herbicides for crops, raised $70 million in Series C funding, the company tells Axios.

Why it matters: Targeted pesticides and herbicides could help replace harmful chemicals used in food production globally, and investors are taking notice.

Details: Australian agrochemical company Nufarm led the all-equity round, which values Enko at $320 million. Nufarm did not get a board seat as part of the deal.

  • Other investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Anterra Capital, Taher Gozal, Eight Roads Ventures, Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Ventures, TO Ventures Food, Endeavor8, Alumni Ventures Group and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund.
  • Enko CEO Jacqueline Heard tells Axios the $70 million in funding provides about two years' worth of runway.

How it works: Enko takes a page from the biotech playbook by modeling its approach to enzyme discovery after drug companies.

  • It has amassed a vast library of genomic sequencing data for crop pests, which it then uses to develop chemistry that targets a specific enzyme, theoretically cutting down on widespread use of harmful chemicals.
  • Right now it provides data to major manufacturers like Nufarm and Bayer, but plans to ramp up production of its own herbicides and pesticides in the coming years.

Yes, but: "Historically, borrowing from drug discovery for ag has not been that successful," Heard says.

  • Heard incubated the company at Anterra Capital to help offset the costs of building Enko's database before spinning it out as a separate company.
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