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New Way Of Sensing Becomes Commercial Reality

Scentian Bio spins out from Plant & Food Research with investment from Sprout

Unravelling the mystery of how insects smell led to a ground-breaking discovery - a panel of synthesized insect receptors could be used to create a device to smell and taste chemical compounds. Scentian Bio was formed to create a novel technology for commercial use in medical, food or industrial settings.

Dr Andrew Kralicek, spent the past 19 years at Plant & Food Research determining how smell receptors in insects work. These receptors are the result of 400 million years of evolution and enable insects to easily find mates, detect predators, find food, or where to lay eggs with their receptors. Kralicek’s team investigated whether insect smell receptors could be combined with electronics to create an “insect nose/tongue”. A new technology developed from this research is the basis of new company Scentian Bio.

“We know this technology detects volatile organic chemicals which is the basis of a completely new sensor technology. We discovered that no one else can do this,” explains Andrew. “This is deep tech, hard-core science that will have a massive impact as we have developed a tool to detect and analyse complex aroma and taste profiles. That means that we could use the technology to detect variation in water, wine or food quality for example, or even detect the presence of disease in humans.”

Andrew went through Sprout Agritech’s Accelerator to understand how to commercialise this discovery, which highlighted the need for connected capital to be able to establish this world-leading technology. Scentian Bio is Sprout’s first of 40 investments planned in agtech and foodtech start-ups over the next 7 years.

Sprout and Plant & Food Research partnered to spin-out the Scentian Bio technology with $1 Million investment from Sprout and its investment partners – Finistere Ventures, Fonterra and OurCrowd with funding from Callaghan Innovation’s Tech Incubator Programme. Sprout provided mentoring and start-up expertise to help guide Scentian Bio with approaching customers in the flavour and fragrance sectors where the technology could be used for analysing composition and quality of food ingredients. The global opportunity is worth more than $1 Billion.

Scentian Bio is a great example of how ideas from Crown Research Institutes can be developed into a commercial success. David Hughes, Chief Executive of Plant & Food Research agrees and says, “the creation of Scentian Bio is a great milestone for Plant & Food Research and its technology development strategy taking fundamental science through to a point where it can deliver value in the real world.”

“Scentian Bio is an excellent example of the potential of spinning-out crown research institute IP with specialist agtech and foodtech seed-stage venture capital,” explains Warren Bebb, Sprout Investment Manager. “We are looking for solutions to the big problems around agtech and foodtech and know that CRIs have potential IP that can be commercialised with the support of Sprout.”


Sprout is a seed-stage investor and accelerator that exclusively focuses on agtech and foodtech. Sprout backs agtech and foodtech businesses and entrepreneurs who are committed to building solutions for global problems affecting the ag and food production systems. Sprout has $1 million of funding for seed-stage companies that have unique vision of how to solve ag and foods’ big problems and want investment partners to make their vision a reality. Sprout’s investor group, Finistere Ventures, Our Crowd and Fonterra, with the support of Callaghan Innovation has sufficient resources to complete 40 investments.

Finistere Ventures

Finistere Ventures is a leading global agrifood technology and life sciences venture capital investor with offices in Palo Alto, San Diego, Ireland, Israel and New Zealand. Its team has developed and invested in some of the most successful agrifood tech companies of the last 20 years—building and backing companies worth more than $5 billion. Visit

Our Crowd

OurCrowd is a global venture investment platform that empowers institutions and individuals to invest and engage in emerging companies. Rated by PitchBook as the most active venture investor in Israel, OurCrowd vets and selects companies, invests its capital, and provides its global network with unparalleled access to co-invest and contribute connections, talent and deal flow. OurCrowd builds value for its portfolio companies throughout their lifecycles, providing mentorship, recruiting industry advisors, navigating follow-on rounds and creating growth opportunities through its network of multinational partnerships. With $1.5 billion of committed funding, and investments in more than 220 portfolio companies and 23 venture funds, as well as operating five government backed tech incubators. OurCrowd offers access to its membership of almost 60,000 individual accredited and institutional investors, family offices, and venture capital partners from over 183 countries to invest alongside, at the same terms. OurCrowd’s portfolio is diversified across sectors and stages, ranging from seed and series A through late stage and pre-IPO firms. OurCrowd portfolio companies have been acquired by some of the most prestigious brands in the world, including Microsoft, Uber, Canon, Oracle, Nike, and Intel. To register and get involved, visit


We’re a New Zealand dairy co-operative owned by 10,000 farmers and their whānau. With a can-do attitude and a collaborative spirit, our 20,000 employees share the goodness of our farmers milk with the world by showcasing our innovative consumer, foodservice and ingredient solutions brands. At our Fonterra Research and Development Centre we invest significantly in innovation to deliver scientifically-supported benefits from dairy that meet the nutritional needs and expectations of our customers and consumers. Everyday people working hard to be Good Together, in our community and yours.

Callaghan Innovation

New Zealand’s Technology Incubator programme supports deep tech innovators to turn their complex products and technologies into high growth ventures. Under the new programme, and through official incubators, deep-tech start-ups can access funding of up to $1,000,000, strong breadth and depth of commercialisation support, international and local connections. New Zealand’s Technology Incubator Programme and core venture funding, is powered by Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s innovation agency.

About Plant & Food Research

At Plant & Food Research, we believe science can create a better future. By finding smarter, greener options today, we’re helping secure the world we want to live in tomorrow.

With our partners, we use world-leading science to improve the way they grow, fish, harvest and share food. Every day, we have 1000 people working across Aotearoa New Zealand and the world to help deliver healthy foods from the world’s most sustainable systems.

New fruits, better grains, smarter use of chemicals, stronger biosecurity, higher yields, exciting foods, great nutrition, reduced waste.

We answer complex biological questions; we design innovative products and technologies; and we look over the horizon for new ways to grow a smart green future.

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