Agrifood Tech | July 27, 2022

Gates Foundation-backed Enko raises $70 million for sustainable crop treatments

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, July 27 – Enko uses machine learning and drug discovery to develop non-chemical modes of killing agricultural pests and weeds. The Connecticut-based company raised $70 million in a Series C round led by agrochemical company Nufarm.

Agriculture’s widespread use and dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides “has led to rampant resistance that is threatening farmer livelihoods and our food supply,” says Enko’s Jacqueline Heard.

Its first commercial product will be an herbicide that targets “superweeds” resistant to glyphosate-based treatments, like Roundup, which have been linked to cancer in humans.

Enko counts global agrochemical companies like Syngenta and Bayer as partners in developing the treatments.

Emerging markets

Smallholder farmers in emerging markets historically have had to wait a decade or more for access to new technologies. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation led Enko’s $45 million Series B round in 2020 “to accelerate the development of innovative products that can be made available at an affordable price to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”

Enko’s commitment to global access to its technologies “is the center of its agreement with the Gates Foundation,” a spokeswoman told ImpactAlpha. Such “global access agreements” are a linchpin of the charitable purpose of the foundation’s tax-advantaged program-related investments.