There are traditional chemical inputs, and there are bio-based inputs. One Canadian startup is adding a third category to the list: nanotech-boosted inputs.
“We view precision ag as a stool that has three legs,” Darren Anderson, CEO of precision chemical startup Vive, tells AFN. “There’s the equipment component for precision application, and the data analytics. But there’s also a need for the precise delivery of crop protection inputs. Those three elements support one another and can make a huge difference in the productivity and sustainability of a farming operation.”
Mississauga, Ontario-based Vive just closed a C$7.2 million ($5.39 million) ‘Series B3’ financing led by Toronto investment firm Urbana Corporation. Existing US-based investor Middleland Capital also participated, along with the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Cleantech Practice. This latest capital injection brings Vive’s total funding to C$38 million ($28.42 million).
The startup will use the new funding to build out its US sales team, establish distribution channels across the continental US, and invest in research and development.
Although some startups seek out strategic investors to help them take a targeted route, Vive has a different view when it comes to fundraising.
“We have been careful to not get strategic involvement in the business,” Anderson says.
“It’s been important to us to have the ability to drive our own destiny and to commercialize our product portfolio as broadly as we can. We are concerned that a strategic would mean that we would end up having to drive very specifically in one direction.”
Vive has developed the Allosperse delivery system, which uses nanotechnology to enhance existing chemical and biological inputs for farmers. Essentially, this takes existing chemical or bio-based inputs that farmers are already accustomed to, but delivers them in a new way using nano-scale technology.
“We take the existing product and wrap it in these small polymer particles. When we do that, those particles now control how the active ingredient interacts with its environment and how it behaves when it’s on the farm,” Anderson explains.
For example, an active ingredient that typically falls apart when mixed with certain types of fertilizer could be enveloped in Vive’s polymers to be co-mixed and co-applied with fertilizer and other inputs. For farmers, this means less labor time and greater overall efficiency in their input application programs.
Although there is some competition in the field, Anderson sees Vive as creating a lane for itself by allowing farmers to use existing inputs in new ways. So far, its products are being used on 1.2 million acres in the US, and he reports 2x year-on-year growth over the last four years.
Vive has so far focused on developing a line of its own branded products, but has increasingly garnered interest from existing players in the ag inputs space keen to work with it.
“As we grow, folks have been paying more attention to us. We are opening new opportunities for these existing chemistries,” Anderson says.
“It’s not a case of a generic chemical company fighting to get to the bottom of low-cost development. It’s differentiated value-added products that create new market opportunities for some of these older chemistries.”
This involves both traditional chemical-based inputs and the emerging bio-based segment. Like many others in the field, Anderson thinks there are challenges around biological inputs when it comes to consistency and efficacy. Vive has been combining both types in an attempt to offer farmers the best of both worlds: chemical reliability, plus bio’s benefits.