Enko CEO Jacqueline Heard talks Enko's Series C funding and how the money raised will help grow healthier crops by using AI
How Enko’s $70 million Series C funding will help grow healthy crops using AI
By Jacqueline Heard, CEO and founder
Today, we announced that Enko has raised $70 million in Series C funding led by global agrochemical company Nufarm. With this funding, we will accelerate our discovery and development of new chemistries that target critical pests threatening global agriculture. This also reflects an expansion of our partnership with Nufarm to bring innovative products to their core markets.
Mounting threats to the global food system mean farmers need new solutions now. Since the beginning of our partnership with Nufarm, our shared goal has been creating herbicides with multiple modes of action that stay effective for longer but require less application, less often. The need for these and other new chemistries is becoming more urgent. Farmers have very limited options to safely protect their fields from crippling pest resistance, superweeds and new diseases, and government agencies around the world are moving to reduce and ban their existing options. Climate volatility intensifies crop threats, worsening the turbulence and uncertainty around harvests – which can also lead to rising food prices and social unrest.
Stark examples of this are all around us. We need look no further than last week’s devastating heat wave in Europe to understand the seriousness of climate change’s impacts on global food prices and security. On the other side of the globe, Sri Lanka’s sudden shift to all-organic farming in 2021 is a major contributor to the country’s current crises. It also demonstrates the economic and social consequences when leaders ignore growers’ needs. Crop protection innovation is not keeping pace with these needs. New active ingredients take longer to register because traditional untargeted, high throughput screening is slow, with limited diverse starting points to clear the hurdles of global registration. Despite safety concerns, some products remain in use only because no viable, safer alternatives exist.
With this funding, we will accelerate our mission to develop these safer and effective solutions and bring them to growers better, faster and more affordably.
Last year, investors put a record $1.5 billion into artificial intelligence agriculture startups as part of a global effort to support the food supply chain — through pest control, weed eradication and increasing crop yields. We are proud to be a leader in this transition to digital agronomy as we advance our ENKOMPASS platform through proprietary DNA-encoded libraries internalized earlier this year. Our machine learning algorithms find novel and unexpected product molecules at a scale that would otherwise be impossible. These first-to-agriculture models and data sets significantly improve the rate of new chemistry discovery and the likelihood that we can successfully commercialize those discoveries. As the number of new products on the market declines, our pipeline is progressing. Fueled by AI-powered discovery, our target-based approach has generated an industry-leading product pipeline of novel and diverse molecules in less time and with fewer resources than legacy R&D methods, which on average takes 10-12 years for the discovery and development process.
In addition to our partnership with Nufarm, we work alongside organizations including Syngenta and Bayer to strengthen and sustain the future of farming. Our work has never been more urgent. We are energized to expand our team, deepen our partnerships and drive forward our efforts to help farmers around the world grow healthy crops.
By Jacqueline Heard, CEO and founder