Applying fertilizers to fields has been a standard farming practice for generations. The problem with these chemicals is that they end up in the air or in water runoff. Scientists at agriculture startup Pivot Bio say the key to delivering an important nutrient to crops has been at the plants’ roots all along—and the company is now preparing to offer farmers an alternative to fertilizer.
Pivot has developed microbes that it says can supply the nitrogen that plants need to grow. The San Francisco startup is preparing to launch its first product, a microbial treatment for corn, in the 2019 growing season. To support commercialization in the U.S, and eventually, other geographic regions, Pivot announced today it has raised $70 million in new financing.
The investment, a Series B funding round, was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $1 billion fund steered by chair of the board Bill Gates that invests in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The investment comes as a growing number of companies are researching and commercializing different microbial products intended to help plants in various ways, such as improving nutrient uptake, or making them hardier against the stresses posed by drought or pests.