Enko Chem aims to find new ways to protect crops from pests and disease

The firm has secured $66 million in funding from groups including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Few new crop protection mode and sites of actions have debuted in recent years. In corn and soybean herbicides, for example, the last herbicide site of action that was commercialized around 20 years ago were the Group 27 products (HPPD inhibitors).

Enko Chem Inc. wants to change that. It has secured $45 million in a Series B round of financing, bringing its total funding raised to date to $66 million. Led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the latest round attracted a mix of existing (Anterra Capital and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund) and new investors (Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Ventures, and Ventures Food). 


The crop protection industry is struggling to face critical challenges including rising regulatory standards, higher performance requirements, and growing pest resistance, say Enko Chem officials. At a time when more than 600 pest species  have developed some form of resistance and and threaten yields, R&D pipelines have suffered a declining rate of innovation and have failed to deliver high-value new products when producers and consumers need it the most. 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.
 
“Resistance issues have been plaguing agriculture production for years, but the industry has been slow to innovate. Delivering safer, lower use rate products that provide good returns for farmers needs to be the rule and not the exception,” said Jacqueline Heard, chief executive officer of Enko in a news release. “We are leveraging powerful drug discovery technologies to build a deep pipeline of solutions at unprecedented speed as we strive to lead this $60 billion industry into a new era of sustainable agriculture. We are thrilled that our novel approach, which builds in safety measures from the start to keep us ahead of future needs, has attracted support from this top-tier group of investors.”
 
Founded in 2017 and incubated by Anterra Capital, Enko will use the funds to expand its technology platform and rapidly develop its pipeline of novel crop protection products. Using advanced pharmaceutical discovery and predictive analytics tools, the company is actively advancing novel modes of action through its platform, and its first solutions are progressing toward field testing and regulatory trials. In support of this mission, Enko continues to cultivate research collaboration and strategic partnerships with industry leaders. 
 

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