Pluton Biosciences is hard at work identifying beneficial microorganisms and putting them to work in agriculture, and has just raised a $16.5 million Series A round to commercialize its most promising finds.
The company raised its $6.6 million seed round in 2021, and I then reported on its approach to identifying and isolating microbes and bacteria that perform useful work. Nature is pretty good at solving problems through billions of years of evolution, and there’s tremendous biodiversity in every globule of soil or microbiome.
As cool as it is to isolate and study dozens of new-to-scientific micros, ultimately Pluton had to choose one that worked as a product, not just a project. They settled on what they call a “microbial soil cover” that traps and fixes carbon and nitrogen in the soil. This process is not only good for the crops and the environment, but it is also potentially a very valuable market; Pivot Bio raised a monster $430 million in 2021 to bring to market a microbial alternative to nitrogen-filled fertilizer.
“We have highly repeatable lab and greenhouse data for several product candidates that take carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere and place it in the soil. Early tests confirmed growth in soil during the intended season in agricultural fields,” CEO and CFO Elizabeth Gallegos said in response. to TechCrunch’s questions Field tests this year should quantify the sequestration process and how the product affects (presumably positively) the soil itself.
Meanwhile, R&D continues, along the carbon side and the more generally environmentally friendly:
“We’ve discovered new microbes that generate sustainable carbon that will persist in the soil for decades and have the potential to be used in industries beyond agriculture,” Gallegos said. And one of their microbes led them to discover a new molecule that acts as an insecticide against a particular pest, the autumn armyworm – that could be their next big product.
The company has doubled in size from 8 to 17 people and expects to double again in the coming year; the physical size of their office and lab has also doubled, and you expect it to continue to grow as well.
The new round of funding was led by Illumina Ventures and RA Capital, which primarily focus on genomics, precision health and other life science verticals. Fall Line Capital, the Grantham Foundation, First In Ventures, Wollemi, Radicle Growth and iSelect also participated in the increase.