By Ann Donahue
Boost Biomes wants to grow big by focusing on the small stuff.
Based in Brisbane, Calif., and founded in 2016, the agtech startup uses state-of-the-art DNA sequencing to identify microbial products that could be sold in the commercial marketplace.
Using its proprietary sequencing technology platform, Boost is in the process of developing microbiome products for food and agriculture. Right now, the company has two beneficial microbial products—one a biofungicide, the other a nematicide—going through the registration process with the Environmental Protection Agency. The biofungicide was created as part of a development and license agreement with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.’s Health & Biosciences Division.
According to Doyle Galvin, the Director of Strategy and Corporate Development at Boost, the end goal is to create microbial products in a way that is profitable for Boost and its partners—but by using a process that keeps an eye towards sustainability. “It’s really important for us that the use of these products is really a benefit for consumers and for the globe, for both environmental purposes and community purposes,” he said. “We hope that’s going to be really a big part of our definition of our company.”
Galvin said that the DNA sequencing platform used by Boost really is a game-changer; it results in quicker, cheaper sequencing than traditional methods and, in addition, allows the company to focus on the key interactions going on in the microbiome.
“Typically biologists would approach things by identifying one microbe in the soil that prevents a pathogen from attacking a crop,” Galvin said. “Our platform is really unique in that it identifies all of those microbiomes that are there. It has the ability to identify which ones are positively interacting with each other, and which ones are negatively interacting with each other. We’re able to map that all together and see these interactions and design potential product concepts.”
Boost was launched with $1.5 million in seed capital from Nimble Ventures and Viking Global, and went on to raise $7.5 million through a Series A funding round that included a joint development agreement with lead investor Yara International and funding from Japanese investor Universal Materials Incubator. Galvin said Jamie Bacher, the company’s Co-Founder and CEO, is now looking to raise Series B funding.
In addition, Boost is working with the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology in Salinas to expand their contacts and create new partnerships for the company’s work in the agriculture space, including product concept development and field trials.
“We are particularly interested in in-field applications with berries, strawberries, grapes, lettuce,” Galvin said. “In post-harvest applications, we’re also interested in stone fruits or other fruits that are off the field and going through processing. We’re looking for distributors or growers or other players in the value chain who are interested in being some of our first partners as we bring our products to market. We think it will be a game changer for food.”