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Image credit: Boost Biomes

BRIEF: Boost Biomes raises seed funding from Japan’s Kureha to develop microbial products for ag

February 25, 2020

Boost Biomes, a Californian microbe discovery platform startup, has raised seed funding from Kureha Corporation, a Japanese chemicals and plastics manufacturer. The strategic investment forms part of a series of seed-stage funding rounds for Boost Biomes, including one we reported on in 2018, taking total funding since founding in 2016 to $5 million.

Boost’s microbe discovery platform enables it to conduct multiple micro-experiments to measure the performance and interactions of different microbes in agriculture. The startup is working on its first product, a biofungicide that can be used both in the field and post-harvest to prevent mildew and mold affecting yields, crop quality, and shelf life. This product consists of two microbes working together, which is rare as most biopesticides offer a single microbe as the active ingredient, according to Jamie Bacher, CEO. That’s because, despite advances in microbe discovery technologies, it’s still hard to do large screens on multiple microbes and how they work together; once you get past 50 different microbes, the number of combinations becomes unwieldy and unrealistic to test in a modern microbiology lab, he added.

“Our technology lets us not have to do that as we can find those natural interactions by taking microbes from specific environments — say a plant root or soil surrounding it — and separating the communities of microbes in that sample into smaller sub-communities to understand which microbes sort together more often than not using DNA sequencing, and which help each other to grow or inhibit each other from growing,” he explained.

Boost Biomes is now pulling together a list of potential distributors for its inaugural product and is also identifying areas of interest for Kureha to work on new products.

This is the first seed stage investment for Kureha, which is currenty looking for more opportunities for collaboration, according to Naomitsu Nishihata, President of Kureha America, the subsidiary that invested in Boost Biomes.

“Kureha is seeking new opportunities for joint development with or investment in early-stage startups with strong strategic fit to us in its value proposition. Through this open innovation activity, we will keep working to generate a number of potential new business seeds. This strategic partnership with Boost Biomes can accelerate creating innovative products,” he said in a statement.


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