Israeli Bio-Agritech is picking up huge sums of foreign investment, including from the World Bank, as the realities of modern demographics begin to catch and surpass natural crop yield capacity
Kaiima, an Israeli Bio-Agritech startup, specializing in enhanced seed breeding technologies, announced today, (Tuesday) the closing of a $65M funding round. The round was led by Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures, World Bank Group member IFC (International Financial Corporation), Infinity Group – a China-focused private equity fund, as well returning investors DFJ-Tamir Fishman, Mitsui, KPCB, Oberlee and Musea Ventures.
This closing is actually the culmination of a round that began in early August with the securing of a $20M pledge by the World Bank and exceeding a stated goal of $50M.
Genetic engineering, not modification
Kaiima’s EP technology or Enhanced Ploidy, functions to multiply plant genomes without damaging DNA. This particular method of genetic engineering is not transgenic; meaning any changes to the plant’s genetic structure will not grandfather over to future generations and this should negate fears related to the unpredictable long-term effects normally associated with genetic modification.
The results have thus far been impressive. Kaiima’s 1st generation varieties provide yields in excess of 7 tons of seed per hectare per year. Kaiima plans on breaking the 10 ton mark with their 2nd generation and 3rd generation varieties are already in development.
In addition to solving for food shortages, Kaiima is also focusing on enhancing crop yields for bio-diesel, bio-ethanol, and biomass energy. Their castor varieties are expected to yield upwards of 10 tons of seed (or 5 tons of oil) per hectare per year compared to the global average which ranges between 1-1.5 tons of seed under the same parameters.
Additional ancillary benefits of such crops may include the possible reduction of atmospheric CO2 and remediate waste water.
Kaiima Chairman Jeffrey Beard remarked on the closing saying, “We are pleased that Horizons, the IFC, and Infinity Group have chosen to join our investor family as they recognize the value that Kaiima’s technology can bring to the world,”
Supply and demanding need
As to why agritech is managing to pick up tens of millions while other tech companies are struggling just to get noticed, it all boils down to one simple fact; everyone’s gotta eat.
Putting numbers to that blanket fact is Kaiima CEO Doron Gal who informed that, “By 2050, farmers will be tasked to produce 70% more food than they do today to sustain the growing world population. This is a daunting challenge that modern agricultural technology must rise up to meet. The strategic alliance we have formed with our new investors fuels our rapid advances in yield enhancement technology, and positions Kaiima to become an outstanding participant in the global fight against hunger.”
Kaiima was founded in 2006 by Dr. Doron Gal and raised an earlier round of funding of $19.8M in 2011. With this round Kaiima’s total investment value rises to just shy of $85M. The company hopes to use the latest funding in a bid to scale-up its R&D and commercial activities globally, including in developing countries such as China, Kazakhstan and Mexico.