BiOWiSH Technologies, a company using microorganisms to increase the efficiency of fertilizers; promote drought resistance in crops; and extend the shelf-life of fresh fruit and vegetables, has raised $5 million in Series B funding from existing investors.
The funding round takes the total capital raising efforts by the company — which has been in quasi-stealth mode until this point — to $40 million.
The primary use of the funding will be for expansion and commercialization growth across markets and regulatory regimes, according to Rod Vautier, founder of BiOWiSH.
“We have a very diverse stockholder base including one Fortune 500 company, some PE funds, Saturn Partners out of Boston, a couple of high net worth investors, and all of our staff are invested and committed to the company too,” he said.
BiOWiSH is not just focused on food and agriculture. Last year it launched its first product which helps improve the efficiency of chlorine and cyanuric acid in swimming pools. The technology, which uses microorganisms as catalysts in a range of different chemical and biological reactions, was first discovered in Southeast Asia in 2007.
The company is now developing a range of different products for the food and agriculture industry including BiOWiSH Crop, which can be coated onto traditional fertilizers to improve their efficiency and soil conditions.
“We’re not providing the bulk of the micronutrients required, but our biotech increases the efficiency of existing nutrients, and can reduce the amount of inorganic fertilizer needed,” explains Vautier.
“When you put most bulk nutrients down, like nitrogen, phosphate and potash, depending on the soil conditions, PH, and temperature, only a certain percentage of what you apply reaches the plant in a form it can use; the rest of it tends to get bound into complex organic forms which are not bioavailable to the plant. If you get excess bound nutrients, it can also be inhibitory to root development. Our technology can break down these bound nutrients in the soil to shift the balance back to available nutrients, which is better for soil health, root growth, the mobilization of bulk nutrients, and therefore the economics of the farmer.”
BiOWiSH also has products for hydroponic growing systems, aquaculture, beef, dairy, and pork farming, and post-harvest produce.
The latter, BiOWiSH Fruit & Vegetable Wash, increases the storage life of produce, provides cleaner fruits & vegetables, resolves latex issues — the sap that exudes out of bananas, staining them — and reduces the need for wash process chemicals.
“We were initially just looking to resolve the latex issue, so it was a pleasant, unexpected surprise when we realized our product also extended the shelf life of produce,” said Vautier.
In 2014, a research firm estimated that the global agricultural biologicals market would grow at a CAGR of 14.6% from 2014 to 2019. Monsanto estimates that the ag biologicals market is worth $2.9 billion, with microbes representing $1.8 billion of that, according to a recent article in MarketWatch. And while the long-term prospects for the segment are promising as demand for organic and sustainably-sourced produce increases, with commodity price lows putting pressure on farmers’ purchasing power, it’s unclear if this level is sustainable or likely to increase much more in the short to medium term.