DURHAM – Agtech startup AgBiome is “potentially” laying off all its 123 workers, according to a layoff notice filed with the state of North Carolina. AgBiome is trying to raise capital, one of its co-CEO says, in order to stay in business “for the foreseeable future.”
The company, which launched in 2012, is located at 104 TW Alexander Drive Durham. A fungicide it developed was approved by the EPA in June of last year.
“AgBiome has developed plans to lay off potentially all of its employees,” wrote Elizabeth Claypoole of AgBiome. “We anticipate that these changes, when finalized, will be permanent.”
Layoffs began Oct. 16 and are scheduled through Dec. 15, according to the notice.
Its two co-chief-executive-officers – Scott Uknes and Eric Ward – are on the layoff list provided to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Responding to an inquiry from WRAL TechWire, Ward said AgBiome is still in business, selling products and trying to raise capital.
“We will continue to produce, market, sell, and support our products for the foreseeable future,” Ward said via email. “We are confident that [products] Howler and Theia will continue to be critical biological solutions that growers will depend on to safely grow their crops for many years to come.”
Backers of AgBiome include the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which has made seven grants for research, according to AgBiome’s website.
“Our business is doing better than it ever has,” Ward added. “Unfortunately, we needed to raise capital in an extremely challenging [venture capital and private equity market. Many excellent companies, including AgBiome, are struggling to raise capital.”
The company closed a $117 million funding round in 2022 and raised more than $200 million over the last decade.
As writer Frank Vlinaun reported for the N.C. Biotech Center, AgBiome’s platform technology, called Genesis, screens collections of microbes to identify the ones that have potential agricultural applications. In 2021, AgBiome announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continued its grant support of one particular part of the company’s research, which is focused on developing low-cost microbial pesticides for smallholder farms in sub-Saharan African countries.