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