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MBIE funding embeds start-up as world-leading agtech company

Published: Thu 13 Jun 2019 09:28 AM
New Zealand agtech start-up BioLumic, world-leading developers of sustainable ultraviolet (UV) crop yield enhancement, today announces its development has been bolstered by significant financial backing from MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).
The $2.502m grant is the second multi-million dollar injection for Palmerston North-based BioLumic in a month – following on from the close of its Series A round of US$6.7m – and an indication of the company’s growing reputation as a front-runner in leading-edge crop intensification.
The MBIE five-year grant supports collaboration with T Global, Helius Therapeutics, Microsoft, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, Miro Limited Partnership, and Bayer Crop Science to develop a large body of data to identify the best light treatment for any crops in any environment.
BioLumic has proven its proprietary UV light system delivers long-term crop benefits — including improved consistency, increased yield and disease resistance. BioLumic’s crop responses can be achieved in days for seedlings and minutes for seeds – responses that are sustained throughout the plant’s lifetime. The patented technology can increase crop yields by up to 40 per cent in a variety of conditions, and requires less land than traditional methods.
“The result of the funding will assist New Zealand primary producers to produce more food in the same area of land, require less water and nutrients, and be less affected by climate change,” Dr Jason Wargent, BioLumic co-founder and Chief Science Officer, says.
“It is estimated that more than 8.6 billion people will populate the planet by 2030, and the world will need to produce 50 per cent more food by 2050. We must increase the productivity and quality of our crops to meet the needs of the planet, while reducing our environmental footprint.”
Dr Wargent estimates that the MBIE-backed research will add $0.6bn to $1.2bn per annum in exports, and the international business will put New Zealand at the forefront of agriculture innovation.
“The conventional ways of producing crops inevitably involve land use and traditional agro-chemical inputs. Everything we are doing here is about producing more crops that are higher yielding and more nutritious using less land, intensifying our ability to get more with less.”
Announcing the grant today, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said: “Science and innovation are major drivers of economic growth and international competitiveness. These partnerships will see lasting benefits for New Zealand’s economy."
Less than a month ago, the world's largest grower and supplier of medicinal cannabis, Canopy Rivers, provided $2.2 million (US$1.5m) in funding for BioLumic. The global legal cannabis market is expected to exceed $146bn US by the end of 2025 and BioLumic aims to enable commercial producers to meet the rising demand for regulated medical cannabis products.
BioLumic extended the Finistere Ventures-led Series A financing to include Canopy Rivers’ financial backing, closing the oversubscribed round at US$6.7 million. The financing was comprised of a tier-one investor roster that also included Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund and Radicle Growth acceleration fund.
Warren Bebb, BioLumic Chief Executive, says the MBIE funding will develop new and cross-disciplinary technologies for global agriculture.
“It is acting as a catalyst for us to connect to New Zealand companies, supporting the collaboration of new and important ag-tech businesses in this country.”
BioLumic currently employs 15 staff – the majority in Palmerston North – as well as California, Spain and Mexico. Its vision is to significantly grow its R footprint in New Zealand and the US, as well as commercial offices in key markets around the world.
“We have big expectations that BioLumic could be one of the most successful ag-tech companies to come out of New Zealand,” Bebb says, “and be a major success around the world.”

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