Publication date: 19/06/2017
VIB, Ghent University and KU Leuven have launched a new spin-off: Aphea.Bio. This new company will develop sustainable agricultural products based on natural microorganisms to increase crop yields and to protect them against specific fungal diseases. Thanks to a successful Series A financing round and an R&D grant approved by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), Aphea.Bio is now backed by 9 million euros of funding, giving it a clear shot at a leading position in the fast-emerging market of biopesticides and biostimulants. Headquartered in Ghent , Belgium, Aphea.Bio will be led by CEO Dr. Isabel Vercauteren and CSO Dr. Steven Vandenabeele.
The VIB spin-off pulls together resources and expertise in plant-bacteria interactions of the lab of prof. Sofie Goormachtig (VIB-Ghent University) and microbiome know-how contributed by the group of prof. Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven).
Superior microorganisms for sustainable agriculture
Aphea.Bio will develop next generation ‘biopesticides’ based on natural microorganisms. These products will provide an alternative for chemical pesticides, which are currently under serious pressure. In addition, the company will develop novel ‘biostimulants’, i.e. microorganisms that stimulate crop growth, for example through promoting the uptake of nutrients from the soil.
Dr. Isabel Vercauteren (CEO Aphea.Bio): “This financing puts us in an excellent position to develop new and superior agricultural products based on naturally occurring microorganisms that have a growth promoting or protective effect on the plant. We distinguish ourselves in this growing and competitive market through our unique technology platform. A large number of microorganisms that coexist with plants haven’t been isolated so far, yet our expertise allows us to exploit this untapped microbial space. Our applications are focused on staple crops such as wheat, barley and maize, because they offer the most valuable European and global market opportunities.”
Successful funding round
In total, Aphea.Bio has raised 7.7 million euros in capital. The series A financing round was led by V-Bio Ventures and was joined by a broad syndicate of investors including PMV, Agri Investment Fund, VIVES, Qbic II, Gemma Frisius Fund KU Leuven, Group De Ceuster and VIB itself.
Furthermore, Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) has approved an R&D grant worth 1.3 million euros, bringing Aphea.Bio’s total financial resources to 9 million euros.
Dr. Willem Broekaert (Managing Partner V-Bio Ventures): “We are highly pleased to have built a strong investor consortium that provides the necessary financial backing for this innovative start-up company. This group of investors also brings along a unique network through their relationships with scientific institutions and key players in the agricultural sector.”
Dr. Johan Cardoen (Managing Director VIB): “This is a great example of the vital impact of basic plant research on sustainable agriculture. All stakeholders are committed to propel Aphea.Bio into a leading position in the agro-biologicals sector. The last piece of the puzzle has been laid to make this company successful: there is now a strong team in place composed of passionate scientists with academic as well as strong industry background.”