Seed funding investment for Cheshire agricultural biotech venture

Vijay Curthan

Catapult Ventures’ GM&C Life Sciences Fund has invested an undisclosed sum in CroBio, an agricultural biotechnology start-up specialising in synthetic biology, based at Alderley Park, Cheshire.

Catapult is based in Leicester, but also has an office at Alderley Park.

CroBio is working on technology that could lead to growing crops in previously inhospitable regions.

It aims to engineer a novel, plant-growth promoting bacteria capable of excreting a water retaining matrix in the soil.

The funding round will enable CroBio to generate the bacterial strains and evaluate their effectiveness in greenhouse trials.

Ross Mulhall, CroBio co-founder, is currently completing his PhD at the University of Liverpool and participated in the YES19 plant, microbial and environment workshop hosted by Syngenta recently.

His team progressed to the final which took place at The Royal Society and won the prize for ‘Best consideration of IP strategy’ with the idea and technology underlying CroBio.

Ross said: “CroBio is a unique company addressing global agricultural crop irrigation from a microbiological perspective.

“Currently, over 70% of global water demand stems from agriculture. Our technology aims to reduce the irrigated water applied to crops and potentially open new geographical regions where crops can be sustainably grown.

“We are thrilled to have received our seed funding from Catapult Ventures and thank Vijay Curthan for his support and interest in CroBio.”

Vijay Curthan, investment director at Catapult Ventures, said: “Catapult supports disruptive companies with the potential to change industry paradigms.

“As such, we are looking forward to working with the CroBio team to develop their first engineered microbe and to test it in greenhouse trials.

“This product is a great example of how synthetic biology can be used to create new environmentally-friendly solutions that fundamentally improve the agriculture business on a global scale and make farming more productive and sustainable.”

The GM&C Life Sciences Fund is a seed and early stage venture capital fund targeting life sciences businesses located in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire & Warrington region.

The fund is the result of a collaboration between Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Cheshire East Council, and Manchester Science Partnerships and can be invested in life science businesses across sectors such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, diagnostics, life science contract research organisations (CRO), healthcare technologies, and medical devices.

With contributions from both private and public-sector partners, the size of the fund, at launch, is around £31m.