Helpful bacteria attract investors
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ST. LOUIS, Mo., January 10, 2013 - The agricultural biotechnology company NewLeaf Symbiotics, Inc. announced this week $7 million in financing from investors to commercialize a naturally occurring species of beneficial bacteria shown to increase crop yield. The investors supporting NewLeaf Symbiotics' research include Rockport Capital, Open Prairie Ventures and Pangaea Ventures.
The bacteria, known as PPFMs, or Pink Pigmented Facultative Methylotrophs, are symbiotic organisms that occur naturally in plants. NewLeaf is researching PPFMs for commercial use in farming and horticulture, explained NewLeaf Symbiotics CEO Tom Laurita.
Laurita expects the first commercial products to be available in 2014 or 2015 in the form of seed coating. He noted that the bacteria can also be applied to plants' foliage, and will be useful on a broad range of crops including corn, soy, wheat and vegetables.
NewLeaf describes PPFMs as microorganisms that supply several essential nutrients all plants need to grow. When applied in a prescribed manner, PPFMs will cause plants to grow faster, stronger, and generate higher yields.
“Utilizing symbiotic microorganisms such as PPFMs to enhance plant growth and health can reduce the need for synthetic chemicals and other treatments, resulting in more profitable and sustainable farming,” noted the company, which is based in the Bio-Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
“It's naturally occurring so we expect to be able to sell to the organic sector as well,” noted Laurita, who said PPFMs consume methanol a waste product that plants produce naturally, while providing nutrients to the plants in return.
“In the organic sector there's a real deficit of effective treatments, especially on seed,” he noted. “Investors see this as a product that will have a broad-scale application in conventional agriculture, but it's a great plus that it's also natural and organic”
An investment partner at Open Prairie Ventures, Jason Wrone, said the NewLeaf bacteria research provides a significant contribution in the agricultural technology sector. “We believe that the scientific advances reported by NewLeaf Symbiotics make this the most compelling opportunity in the burgeoning biocontrols market today,” he said in a statement.
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