BioLumic raises US$5M for UV crop enhancement system
By Rebecca Howard
March 15 (BusinessDesk) - BioLumic has raised US$5 million in funding to help deal with growing global demand for increased agricultural crop yields using short-duration ultra-violet treatments rather than genetic modification or chemicals.
The Palmerston North-based company, creator of the world’s first crop-yield enhancement system using UV light, attracted funding from Silicon Valley agritech investor Finistere Ventures, the Radicle Growth acceleration fund whose investors include Finistere, Rabobank’s recently-launched global Food & Agri Innovation Fund and existing investors from across New Zealand. Finistere has previously backed Israeli agritech company CropX, which licensed research from New Zealand's Landcare Research.
The seed treatment industry is worth an estimated US$10 billion a year and crop disease infection and insect pest damage are two of the most significant crop loss factors worldwide. BioLumic treats seedlings and seeds and its patented technology applies UV light treatments to deliver long-term crop benefits — including improved crop consistency, increased yield and disease resistance.
"Lighting technology primes plants to thrive, not just survive; triggering long-term improvements in yield [gains were recorded at harvest, eight or more weeks after treatment], disease and pest resistance and enhance colour and flavour profiles," it said.
Initially focused on lettuce, broccoli, strawberry and tomato seedlings, BioLumic will use the US$5 million to accelerate development and commercialisation of its seed-focused technology, expanding into row crop and vegetable seeds.
The investment will also be used to aggressively expand the BioLumic team in both New Zealand and its US office in California, and to intensify the global deployment of its UV technologies, it said.
Seedling trials with large-scale vegetable growers and processors in California and Mexico (UK and Spain started last May) have demonstrated yield gains of up to 22 percent, it said. The potential benefit to a grower is an increase in earnings before interest and taxation of 21 percent to 34 percent.
Successful lettuce trials for California’s largest salad grower resulted in an average 10 percent increased yield, and the company – Taylor Farms Mexico, a division of Taylor Farms USA - later became BioLumic’s foundation client, with 35 million seedlings being treated, it said.
US, Mexico and Europe are short-term intended markets. A second confirmed client is G’s Group in the UK and Spain, one of Europe’s leading fresh produce companies.
Before the capital raise, BioLumic's biggest shareholder was the MIG Angels group with 28 percent, followed by local agritech entrepreneur Larry Ellison with 19 percent and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund with 16 percent.