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WeedOUT's first product is targeting Palmer's amaranth - the scourge of US cotton fields, like this one in Virginia. Photo credit: Trisha Downing / Unsplash

EXCLUSIVE: WeedOUT closes Series A at $4.2m; appoints former Monsanto M&A chief

November 17, 2020

Israeli bio-herbicide maker WeedOUT has completed the final close of its Series A round, raising $4.22 million in total across two tranches.

Syngenta Ventures led the round, joining the first close of $3 million in February this year. Other participants in the first close included CreditEase Israel Innovation Fund and Zora Ventures.

The second and final close, as revealed by AFN, raised $1.22 million and featured Kansas-based agritech VC Fulcrum Global Capital.

“After securing its first close, the shareholders and leadership at WeedOUT were very interested in securing North American expertise since the first market for commercialization is likely to be North America,” said Kevin Lockett, a partner at Fulcrum who has joined WeedOUT’s board of directors as part of the deal.

“Fulcrum was attractive because of its North American industry relationships and its investor base which makes up more than 500,000 acres of row crop producers experiencing significant challenges with resistant weeds,” he told AFN.

The startup’s “unique biological approach” is capable of addressing “many of the most problematic resistant weeds and provides a much more sustainable solution and long-term RoI” for growers, he added.

Founded in 2016, WeedOUT has built a platform to create biological herbicides that imitate pollen, allowing them to be applied while weeds are flowering and overcoming the problem of herbicide resistance by using the weeds’ own natural reproductive system against them. The first product created with the startup’s tech platform specifically targets Palmer’s amaranth, which is considered a threat to cotton and soybean crops and has developed resistance to the commonly used chemical-based herbicide glyphosate.

The startup has also appointed Derek Rapp, managing director at St Louis-based life sciences VC firm RiverVest Venture Partners, as chairman of its board of directors.

He previously served — for two separate periods — as head of mergers, acquisitions and new growth platforms at Monsanto, taking the lead on transactions worth more than $7 billion for the former agribusiness. Between those two stints, he was CEO at ag biotech startup Divergence, which he led through to its acquisition by Monsanto in 2011.

“Derek Rapp was an attractive target because of his industry relationships, experience leading and exiting a company that had a similar development path, and his vast experience leading M&A for Monsanto,” Lockett said.

He confirmed that RiverVest did not participate in the Series A round.

Rapp should find himself in like-minded company; WeedOUT co-founders Efrat Lidor Nili and Orly Noivirt-Brik previously served as senior scientist and head of bioinformatics, respectively, at Monsanto’s Israel unit. They joined the US company after it acquired Rosetta Green, a crop bioengineering company they both worked at, in 2013.

The Series A funds will be used for product development, scaling operations, and regulatory advancements, Lockett said.

Got a news tip? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @jacknwellis

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