Food Tech Startup Combatting Food Safety Scandals Raises $8.9m for Testing Device

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A startup based in Connecticut, US called Ancera has raised $8.9 million in Series A funding to develop and commercialize its food testing technology. Offering both a hardware and software product, Ancera aims to help food companies test products for contaminants such as salmonella.

The technology is timely in the wake of increasing numbers of food safety scandals such as cases of e.coli at US fast food chain Chipotle, and salmonella at the Peanut Corporation of America. Food safety is also a high concern for consumers in Asian countries like China, where milk contamination has been a dangerous issue in the past.

Ancera’s hardware device, using a magnetics-based technology called MagDrive, can interact, sort and manipulate cells with a single-cell resolution directly from complex samples ranging from lettuce to fecal matter. Ancera’s Piper platform then sorts the cells based on bio-markers, morphology and molecular signals to analyze the type and quantity of pathogenic and nonpathogenic organisms. The Piper platform provides further analytics with its intelligence algorithms and can even look into the root cause of contamination.

This is much quicker than current food testing methods which involve growing bacteria in a lab for testing which can take several days; Ancyra promises results within eight hours. Currently, Ancyra is focusing on providing tests for poultry and produce, where it sees high demand for faster food testing, but the company intends to move into all areas of food later.

Florida-based family office and existing investor Glass Capital led the round and was joined by two strategic investors Packers Sanitation Services (PSSI), a cleaning and sanitation services provider for the food industry and Metabiota, an epidemic risk analytics business.

PSSI and Metabiota are not only investors, but have partnered with Ancera to release its products on its product, and bring invaluable experience and expertise to the table, according to Arjun Ganesan, CEO of Ancera.

“This part of the food chain needs a unique kind of investor that understands the business — and that investor cannot necessarily be found in Silicon Valley or Boston,” he told AgFunderNews. “Agriculture is a simple industry that’s hugely complex at the same time, and this has limited innovation and investment in our segment in the past. PSSI and Metabiota are bringing in significant value for us and will enable us to take our methodology and leverage it in ways that have never been done before.”

The funds raised will go towards expanding the team and commercializing the technology. The technology is ready, and the hardware units are currently being manufactured with the expectation that they will reach the first customers by the end of the year. The hardware device can be used over and over again, but will require replacement cartridges, which can do 12 tests each and are disposable. The price for the device is yet to be set, according to James Byron, chief commercial officer at Ancera.

“Obviously, clients want to control costs and manage their businesses well, but there is a strong desire for this technology, and they realize the need and are willing to pay whatever the price is so that they can better manage this part of their operation. We expect to be affordable for the industry,” he said.

The device will be sold directly to clients initially, with plans to partner with distributors later.

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