RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is turning to RTP agricultural technology startup AgBiome to tackle crop problems in West Africa.


AgBiome, which has raised $52 million in venture capital since 2013, says it has secured a multi-year grant from the Gates Foundation to develop a microbial solution to deal with plant parasites called nematodes, or roundworms.

In a statement, AgBiome landed Gate support for a project called “Biological Nematicides for Root and Tuber Crops.” It “aims to discover and develop a microbial solution for smallholder farms in West Africa to manage yield-damaging plant-parasitic nematodes,” the company said.

“AgBiome has established a discovery and development pipeline focused on identification, development, and production of field-usable, stable microbes and is well-positioned to develop a nematicidal biological that satisfies the requirements of an effective RKN control product for smallholder yam production in West Africa,” said nematologist Christy Wiggins of AgBiome who will lead the project.

The amount of the grant was not disclosed.

The Gates Foundation is a backer of AgBiome. The company is also backed by a long list of high-profile investors, including Syngenta, Monsanto and Novozymes plus the University of Texas Investment Management Company, Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, and Polaris Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris & Harris Group, as well as Innotech Advisers.