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A Fyto employee with Fyto’s automated cultivation system. Image Credit: Bill Reitzel/Fyto

Fyto lands $15m to grow aquatic “superplants” for animal feed and beyond

July 7, 2022

Disclosure: AFN’s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in Fyto.

  • US-based agtech startup Fyto has raised $15 million in Series A funding for its specialized aquatic “superplants” that can be used for animal feed, food and soil health ingredients. The company is starting with feed for dairy cows.
  • GV (formerly Google Ventures) led the round with participation from existing investors AgFunder, Refactor Capital, First Star Ventures and Bolt.
  • Fyto will use the new funding to scale commercially, grow its team, and eventually develop its plants for applications beyond dairy farms.

On background:

Fyto’s automated grow environments raise protein-rich aquatic crops year-round to be used as alternatives to animal feed ingredients, plant-based foods, biofertilizers, and soil amendments.

The patented hardware-software system grows lemna, a type of duckweed, using cow manure as a feedstock. Fyto says the plants have a lower carbon footprint and generate 10-20 times more protein per acre with 5-10 times less water than conventional feed ingredients, such as alfalfa.

The company’s initial focus is developing feed for dairy cows.

Last year, Fyto completed on-farm trials of its first generation system, CEO and founder Jason Prapas tells AFN. Its system is designed to creates a closed-loop process, transforming on-farm waste into nutrients that are used to grow and harvest aquatic plants.

Fyto is exploring a hub-and-spoke model, where the company would establish growing facilities in “strategic locations” to support customers nearby.

Why it matters:

It’s no secret that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global livestock production represents 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – rather, those caused by humans. Feed production and processing for livestock is responsible for 45% of these emissions.

Protein alternatives like plant-based meat and dairy, precision fermentation, and cell-cultured analogues are posited as solutions. People are unlikely to stop consuming animal-based protein altogether. Indeed, the FAO  estimates that meat and dairy consumption will double by 2050, with a significant portion of the growth coming from emerging markets, where economic growth is making meat products more affordable and accessible.  

Prapas says Fyto is able to reduce the emissions from livestock production in several ways:

Low to no transportation emissions. Getting feed from the point of production to consumption is complex and carbon intensive. Alfalfa may travel from California to feed cows in the Middle East; soy may travel from India and Turkey to feed cows in California. Those miles rack up carbon emissions, Prapas says. By contrast, Fyto’s growing system can operate on-farm, eliminating long shipping distances.

Making use of waste streams. Agricultural waste streams often end up in water supplies as runoff, and in the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, methane and CO2, says Prapas. Fyto’s system is built to capture such waste streams and use them to grow nutritious crops, thereby bringing value to food producers and surrounding communities.

Curbing enteric emissions. Prapas says the higher nutritional content of Fyto’s feed enables cows to more completely digest their food. This in turn reduces a type of greenhouse gas emissions known as enteric emissions (aka “cow burps”). Using third-party testing facilities, Fyto has confirmed that its feed ingredient significantly reduces enteric emissions from the cows raised on its feed.

What’s next for Fyto:

Fyto will use the Series A funding to reach commercial-scale production and grow its team.

“We’re in the process of building some of the largest agricultural robots in history. This funding is accelerating our ability to reach commercial-scale operations this summer while rigorously quantifying the performance of our system and products,” says Prapas.

The company will also work to broaden its applications beyond just feeding dairy cows.

“Our aquatic robotics platform has a huge potential number of applications, from feed to food to fertilizer,” Prapas adds. “We’re excited about how this funding will allow us to expand our impact across industries.”

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