February 28, 2024

Ag tech startup secures funding for solution targeting herbicide-resistant weeds

Israel-based ag tech startup WeedOUT has secured Series A funding for a solution targeting herbicide-resistant weeds using a proprietary weed pollen.

Ag-focused venture capital organization Fulcrum Global Capital is leading the equity round of funding. Other participants include Bunge Ventures and agrifood tech fund Clay Capital.

The new funding is in addition to several grants received by the company from the Israeli Innovation Authority.

“Resistant weeds that plague crops are a major challenge for farmers globally, and the situation has only worsened,” Kevin Lockett, partner at Fulcrum Global Capital, said in a news release. “Fulcrum Global is excited to support WeedOUT’s cutting-edge biological platform and the unique approach it has pioneered to address the resistant weed problem.”

The company’s first target is the Palmer amaranth weed (Amaranthus palmeri), a nuisance in the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina. The weed can grow several feet high and invade fields of corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugar beets, reducing corn crop yield by 90% and soybean yield by 80%, according to the release. Prolonged use of chemical herbicides such as glyphosate has enabled the weeds to develop resistance.

“Evolution is always smarter,” Efrat Lidor Nili, Ph.D., co-founder and co-CEO of WeedOUT, said in the release. “The weeds learn ways to evade the effects of the herbicides. But WeedOUT is applying an entirely new, green approach that targets the reproductive system of resistant weeds and will provide a sustainable, long-term solution.”

WeedOUT’s method stems from sterility techniques used since the 1940s for controlling populations of unwanted insects such as mosquitoes and flies, according to the release. It centers on a proprietary weed pollen derived from male plants. This sterile pollen fertilizes the female weed ovules, yielding nonviable seeds and impeding the growth of resistant weeds.

“WeedOUT effectively targets the innately complex reproductive system of the plant, not just one enzymatic pathway,” Orly Noivirt-Brik, Ph.D., co-founder and co-CEO of WeedOUT, said in the release. “This approach makes it almost impossible for the weeds to develop resistance.

As the weeds are treated with pollen, our method is designed to work in harmony with the ecosystem and to avoid threats to the food crop.”

After initial experiments proved promising, WeedOUT’s founders conducted local field trials before moving on to more extensive trials across the U.S. covering cotton, soybean and sugar beet fields, according to the release. Series A funds will be used to further expand field trials in multiple U.S. regions, including  Georgia and Nebraska, as WeedOUT prepares for product launch.

The company recently submitted a request to the EPA for marketing approval and is developing new formulations targeting different weed species, according to the release.


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