AgBiome is innovating through gene sequencing, but it's not a medical company. As the name hints, AgBiome sequences agricultural genomes. Out of that research, it can discover new insect control genes. Pest control isn't all you need to know about this incredible company. Here are twenty things you didn't know about AgBiome.
20. Crop Productivity
Since early humans stopped roaming around as nomads and formed the first agricultural societies, we have depended on crops. An insect infestation or fungal outbreak can be devastating to food supplies. People can even starve in extreme cases. Crop productivity is everything to modern society. Without it, we have no grocery stores, and people have to stay home to farm their food, which comes with all the same crop issues, but on a smaller scale. If that were the case, most modern businesses would quickly go under from a lack of staff. The work that AgBiome does is helping to keep society functioning and improving our crop output.
19. New CFO Gerald Coward
In 2020 Gerald Coward joined AgBiome as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The choice was a smart move because Coward has nearly thirty years of experience running the financial end of food-based businesses. Before joining AgBiome, Gerald was CFO at the Fresh Food Group. According to PR Newswire, "Business Unit CFO at Driscoll's of the Americas, led the build of corporate planning and analysis capability at Blue Diamond Growers, and held several finance leadership, strategy, and M&A integration roles at General Mills in the US and internationally."
18. Women In Agribusiness
Only the literal best in the Agricultural business receive the HighQuest Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence. Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture, so the award is aptly named. The 10th annual Women in Agribusiness (WIA) Summit will be held in-person and online from September 21-23. Three recipients were chosen this year, and one is Dr. Toni Bucci of AgBiome. The other two recipients are Dr. Vicky Salin of Texas A&M University and Anne Cleary of Wilbur-Ellis.
17. Creating Genesis
According to TechCrunch, Co-CEOs Scott Uknes and Eric Ward have known each other for over 30 years, according to TechCrunch. Among the companies founders, the pair created the Genesis discovery platform AgBiome uses to capture microbes. The microbes, among a suspected trillion or more on earth, have barely been studied. AgBiome uses its knowledge of these little-understood microbes to benefit agricultural businesses by controlling nematodes, insects, and diseases. Though only about one percent of all microbes on earth have been discovered, Genesis houses over a hundred thousand and has sequenced them into hundreds of strains.
16. Expanding The Market
The second fungicide in AgBiome's product portfolio will be available next year. Theia Fungicide is almost ready, and a third product, Esendo Fungicide, has already been submitted for registration with the US Environmental Protection Agency. That's not the only expansion AgBiome has planned. The company aims to have eleven products available by 2025 by growing its existing collection of insecticides, herbicides and adding more fungicides.
15. SOS (Save Our Sweet Potatoes)
African farmers have plenty of challenges. Even before dealing with pests, extreme environment and political upheavals can impact how well they can grow food. Sweet potatoes provide a hardy, healthy source of nutrition for millions, but there's a problematic pesky predator. The sweet potato weevil is hard to control, and it can destroy as much as sixty to a hundred percent of a crop if left unchecked. Fortunately, AgBiome and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered with the AFN to provide sustainable solutions for sweet potatoes in sub-Saharan Africa.
14. Have You Heard
This is Future Food did an entire podcast about another new member of the AgBiome team. Eric Ward, the CEO of AgBiome, and Dr. Marijn Dekkers the former CEO of Bayer, did a superb interview about why Dekkers joined the board and moved over to the agriculture business. Dr. Dekkers isn't only coming from a company known for its aspirin. Bayer is the world's largest ag-chemicals and seeds business. However, seeds aren't much use if you can't keep them alive, so it's a sensible upgrade.
13. Casual Culture, Serious Goals
In many businesses, things are incredibly cutthroat. Employees and management are in constant competition to climb that corporate ladder. It leads to a very toxic environment. AgBiome doesn't want people to feel that way. The company actively works to promote a more casual, trusting environment. Other businesses are the competition, but your coworkers should be more like family. A serious commitment to human happiness and doing meaningful work leads to the deep individual commitment to the job. In short, happy, non-competitive workers coming together is how this business wants to create the future and help save it. Inc magazine even recognized AgBiome as a 2021 Best Place To Work.
12. Employee Run
While AgBiome has a clear leadership structure, it also spends a lot of time focusing on employee input. Creating groups to handle every aspect of how the business runs are the best ways to problem-solve, guarantee that people feel heard, and work out the best strategies for anything. It's all done by pulling together from benefits packages to forging the future of sustainable agriculture problem management. The company considers hiring to be the most critical aspect of business because every employee brings their perspective and expertise to the table and contributes to the success of the whole.
11. Women In Business Award
With a focus on employees, AgBiome shares and supports the triumphs of every individual. 2021 offered a lot to celebrate. The Triangle Business Journal's Women in Business Award goes out to exceptional female leaders every year. This year they reviewed over two hundred possible recipients and chose only twenty-seven of them for the honor. Toni Bucci was one of the few who garnered the recognition. Her mentorship, commitment, and leadership combined with over two decades of industry experience are an asset to the company, the business world, and agriculture as a whole.
10. Forward Fooding
In addition to its many accomplishments last year, AgBiome was counted among the FoodTech 500 for 2020. The ranking is based on digital footprint, sustainability, and business size, predicting growth based on financial performance indicators. The FoodTech 500 only ranks sustainable and food-based businesses, which is not as niche a market as it once was.
9. Beyond Our Borders
African sweet potatoes aren't the only food outside the US that is already seeing the positive impact of AgBiome's ongoing gene sequencing work and the agricultural applications it has. In 2019, the company worked with Sumitomo Corporation and Summit Agro Mexico S.A. de C.V. to develop Howler for the Mexican market. The crop protection that Howler provides works everywhere, and this partnership was just one of many helping sustainable agriculture solutions reach everywhere they are needed.
8. Making Money
With all the focus on people, partnerships, and even philanthropy, it's easy to assume wrongly that AgBiome isn't bringing in a ton of money, but nothing could be further from the truth. The estimated annual revenue of this company is currently $16.3M per year, and it's growing rapidly as new products are developed and approved. Saving the world's crops might as well be a license to print your own money if you can do it, and AgBiome is not only succeeding wildly, but they are doing so in a less harmful, more sustainable way than anyone who came before.
7. Biome Blog
As a company, AgBiome is genuinely unique. Keeping up with everything they do can be a challenge. Fortunately, for anyone who is curious to learn more, there's a company blog, and it's a well-put-together, delightful read. From personal stories to interviews with employees and more news-like pieces on the latest accomplishments, the company blog offers unique insight into how the people who are changing agriculture think.
6. Philanthropic Endeavors
Not everything in AgBiome's business is about the business end. This company cares about its people, but it doesn't stop there. 2020 was a rough year for everyone, but at this business, they handled some of that stress by doing everything they could to help others. Ag donated Howler to Inter-Faith Food Shuttles, took part in the Durham Crop Walk For Hunger, donated about three thousand dollars worth of toys to the USMC Toys for Tots program, and collected another twelve-hundred dollars in toys and supplies for Cause For Paws, among other acts of charity.
5. Fighting Climate Change
Microbes are so small most people never think about them. Meanwhile, climate change is so pervasive, and massive it's hard to get through a day without hearing another horror story about its effects. It turns out that microbe-focused technology can actually affect big changes well beyond protecting crops. Synthetic pesticides create 50 to 70 percent more greenhouse gases. AgBiome's gene sequencing and natural products can significantly contribute to cutting the human carbon footprint. Plus, the microbes in question already exist abundantly in nature and don't require large mining projects or other massive pollutant creating tech to collect.
4. Three Metrics That Matter
According to AgBiome's own website, the company "aims to be the most successful agricultural innovator ever," and they measure that success with three very sensible and basic metrics. Having the best, most effective products is obvious. Every company that prides itself on products aims for the top spot, but few reach that goal as well as AgBiome. Second, and perhaps equally evident is the financial returns. Making good money generally means you're doing a good job. However, the third marker is not what you'd expect, though it's what most people want businesses to care about more; the people. For this business, having the happiest employees is crucial.
3. Rapid Growth
This incredible company estimates the market for biological crop protection products will grow 14-fold in the next nine years alone. As the world deals with ever-increasing food production challenges because of climate change and global warming's wide-ranging effects, someone has to step in and help protect the crops that grow now. Chemical agricultural products are hazardous and often toxic. Consumers don't want chemicals on their food and lawmakers are coming around and passing more restrictive legislation. The really amazing thing about biological products is that they lack the negative side effects that make these outdated chemicals. Unlike other biological-organic solutions, which are known for questionable efficacy, AgBiome doesn't make sub-par, less effective insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. If anything, its products are more effective than competing chemical brands with much less negative ecological impact. Between the innovative, synthetic-free components and the equal quality, it's not difficult to see that this is the future of safe food production.
AgBiome has always worked to make crops more productive, gene sequencing, and fighting pests. After all, that's why it was founded. The fungicide business, however, began with a single, highly effective product. Howler is safer than most commercial fungicidal products. Farmers often spray up to a dozen times in a year and Howler is meant to be the last spray in that series with a shorter re-entry period and a shorter pre-harvest time at just four hours after application.
1. More Crop Protection For The Future
In order to keep working gene sequencing and applying what it learns from that data to create practical agricultural solutions, AgBiome needs investors. Fortunately, they aren't lacking in that department. The recent Series D funding round co-led by Blue Horizon Ventures and Novalis LifeSciences raised $116 million. The money will go toward building more partnerships with agriculture companies worldwide, scaling bother the commercial and scientific teams, and expanding the companies' product portfolio.
High tech agricultural research isn't something you think about daily, but you still see the benefits with every meal. From stocking grocery shelves to helping farmers achieve their dreams, with better fungicides and insecticides that protect crops. Abundant and high-quality crops aren't merely useful, they are vital for the future. AgBiome is leading the way to a greener future.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee