Enko Chem Inc. (Enko) publicly launched after securing $45 million in a Series B round of financing, bringing its total funding raised to date to $66 million. Specialised in small-molecule pest control products, the startup’s tech platform is used to discover new ways to protect crops from pests and diseases.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was driven to invest in the startup because of the potential for its technology to help smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. The latest round attracted a strong mix of existing (Anterra Capital and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund) and new investors (Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Ventures, TO Ventures Food).
“We’re committed to ensuring that smallholder farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have access to affordable innovations that can safely and sustainably control crop pests and diseases, which are likely to intensify and spread into new areas due to climate change.”Dr. Vipula Shukla, Senior Program Officer, Agriculture, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Instead of using traditional high-throughput methods to screen molecules for pesticide activity, it uses DNA-encoded libraries to select candidates from among billions of molecules. The technique, pioneered in the drug industry, is less expensive than older methods and allows researchers to run parallel experiments with different targets.
“You can improve safety and outcomes if you know a lot more about the target in the pest you are trying to inhibit. It gives us options to combat pesticide resistance and allows us to address safety and efficacy at the very start of the process.”Jacqueline Heard, Founder and CEO Enko Chem Inc.
The startup’s launch comes as the need for pesticide alternatives and crop protection becomes more pressing. The factors behind the increase in biopesticides demand are the restrictions on chemical pesticides, the need for residue-free products, and an increase in environmental awareness.
At a time when more than 600 pest species have developed some form of resistance and threaten yield losses of up to 40 percent, Enko is pioneering a new approach by integrating complementary technologies to develop improved products that meet or exceed the safety and sustainability demands of farmers, consumers and regulators around the globe.
Read more at Enko