Pivot Bio has raised $430 million in funding after seeing its revenue increase threefold since the start of this year, it announced today.
The Berkeley, California-based ag inputs startup is also releasing its latest nitrogen-fixation product, which it says will allow corn growers to cut out 40 pounds of synthetic nitrogen use per acre.
Pivot Bio’s technology ‘programs’ the DNA of microbes which naturally occur in the soil so that they produce more nitrogen. The startup then mass-produces these microbes, bottles them, and sells them direct to farmers, who can apply the product — marketed under the name Proven — to their fields.
The idea is to replace traditional synthetic nitrogen products, which are manufactured using high-energy, pollutive industrial chemical processes. Moreover, the application of synthetic inputs often leads to excess nitrogen in the soil, which can run off into the water system and damage natural habitats – or is emitted into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas in the form of nitrous oxide.
Pivot Bio’s engineered microbes, on the other hand, can ‘sense’ when the plants which are growing in the soil they inhabit require more nutrients. This way they only release nitrogen in the amounts that it is needed.
A number of startups are working on bio-based replacements for synthetic nitrogen. In May this year, Boston-based Kula Bio raised $10 million for its seed round led by Collaborative Fund [disclosure: our parent company AgFunder is also an investor in Kula Bio.] San Francisco’s Boost Biomes netted $5 million in Series A funding from fertilizer giant Yara and others back in June 2020. Agrochemicals major Bayer and microbe discovery platform Ginkgo Bioworks formed a joint venture, Joyn Bio, in 2017 to explore biological nitrogen fixation alternatives; while another Californian outfit, Sound Agriculture, secured $22 million in Series C funding from S2G Ventures, Syngenta, and others back in May 2020.
However, Pivot Bio claims it is the only player that has shipped a synthetic nitrogen fertilizer replacement “at scale with performance that meet farmers’ tough requirements” – and it says it “expects to retain this position for years to come.”
“We have built a platform for accelerating nitrogen innovation in the market, and our products are delivering recurring positive outcomes for the growers we serve,” co-founder and CEO Karsten Temme said in a statement.
“We are establishing relationships that will span decades, and aim to provide the sole source of nitrogen needed to power the economic and environmental sustainability of global agriculture for generations to come.”
The startup’s Series D round was co-led by returnee investors DCVC and Temasek. Other participants included Generation Investment Management, G2 Venture Partners, Rockefeller Capital Management, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Continental Grain Company, Prelude Ventures, Bunge Ventures; Tekfen Ventures, among others.
“Pivot Bio exemplifies the power of deep-tech solutions to create equitable and profitable outcomes for all stakeholders in immense industries like agriculture,” said DCVC managing partner Matt Ocko.
“Farmers are able to grow more crops to feed more people, more cost-effectively, while being even better stewards of their land and water. Societies benefit from both more abundant food and more climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture.”
Pivot Bio said it will use the Series D capital — which takes its total funding to date to $600 million — for “rapidly scaling” its US business while expanding its global presence and releasing new products.
The startup claims its products are already used on more than 1 million acres of farmland.
Beyond price parity, CEA must focus more on consumer demand to truly scale