BIOTECH startup Tropic Biosciences, which develops high-performance varieties of tropical crops, on Thursday said it has raised US$28.5 million in a Series B round led by Singapore state investment firm Temasek, bringing its total equity funding raised to US$40 million.
The equity round is joined by new investors including Sumitomo Corporation Europe, Genoa Ventures, Agronomics and Skyviews Life Science. Existing investors Tekfen Ventures, Emerald Technology Ventures, Bits x Bites and the UK Science & Innovation Seed Fund also participated in the round.
Fresh funds will be used to broaden Tropic's crop focus to include major staple crop rice as part of its product portfolio, a food staple which provides 3.5 billion people with over 20 per cent of their daily calories.
The funds will also be used to further enhance its technology platform GEiGS, which is used by agribusinesses to develop disease resistance in plant crops and promote animal welfare. Tropic also hopes to use the funding to accelerate its growth trajectory through field trials for its novel banana and coffee varieties, it said.
Gene editing techniques that the UK-based startup has developed in its work will be utilised to alleviate the impact of climate change on rice production, while maintaining the plant's nutritional benefits, it said in a statement, adding that this will help improve the lives of countless people who depend on the crop.
Tropic's traditional focus is on a crop portfolio of bananas and coffee, which have a combined annual market value of over US$50 billion and provide a source of livelihood for over half a billion people worldwide.
It is also in the midst of developing varieties of banana with longer shelf lives, alongside lines of coffee with reduced caffeine and increased solubility; all of which contribute to a significant reduction in chemical processing requirements, said Tropic.
"These massive crops currently face a wide range of critical challenges, from diseases and pests to climate change. Tropic is working closely with growers to address these major issues and, in doing so, promotes consumer well-being and positive grower economics, while increasing crop stability and addressing unmet nutritional needs," it said.
Said Gilad Gershon, chief executive of Tropic Biosciences: "Humanity's battle against the Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly accelerating the need for technological solutions that promote food security on a global scale. We look forward to working with the public and our commercial partners, to deliver agricultural innovation where it is most needed, and to the people who would most benefit from it."