Start-up raises $2 million to battle diseases costing the Australian crop industry billions each year
Monday, September 16, 2013/
A start-up on the cutting edge of agricultural science has closed a $2 million investment round that included deals with Yuuwa Capital and Uniseed.
Nexgen Plants is built around science to introduce virus resistant technology to crops. The start-up was launched by University of Queensland’s commercialisation program UniQuest.
The Nexgen Plants technology is focused on selectively breeding stronger versions of crops, and allows plants to develop strong defence responses to virus attacks. The technology was developed by Professor Peer Schenk.
Uniquest’s chief executive Dr Dean Moss said in a statement: “Crop losses from viral infections are a multi-billion dollar global problem. This funding is essential for Nexgen Plants to further the development of a potentially disruptive technology focused on producing virus-resistant varieties of plants for different crop types.”
Nexgen Plants interim chief executive Brian Ruddle told StartupSmart the funding would go towards proof of concept rounds.
“It’s commercialising to bring virus resistance into food, fibre, energy or ornamental crops,” he says. “We’ll be taking what we’ve proven to work in the lab and moving it towards some plant varieties to prove the scope and breadth of the technology.”
Ruddle says the next step for Nexgen is to license the technology to plant breeders in Australian and internationally.
“We think we’ll be ready to start engaging plant companies in six months or so. It takes time to have those discussions so we’ve started a few now and they’re keen to see how we progress in the next few months,” he says.
Ruddle says the company, which is currently made up of himself and a research team of five scientists coordinated by Schenk, will be looking to grow and bring on management and team members as they develop.
“It’s the same with every start-up, we’ll bring on management as we need it,” Ruddle says. “As we ramp up the business development, we’ll scale as we go. If I have the right skill set, I’d love to stay on board but it depends how it progresses.”