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Aphea.Bio: applied nature for better agriculture

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“There’s a lot of pressure on farmers these days,” says Isabel Vercauteren, CEO and co-founder of Aphea.Bio. “From both regulators and the authorities, but also from the consumer. Consumers play an important role. Everyone wants the perfectly straight carrot, no spots on the leeks, surreal demands… And we all generate way too much waste. We need to think more in terms of the circular economy, to be more realistic about what we are asking for as consumers. And agriculture needs to be more sustainable. As a company, we’re trying to introduce next generation bio-treatments that can help move towards more sustainable agriculture.”

Founded in 2017, Aphea.Bio develops new and superior agro-biologicals that use micro-organisms rather than chemicals to improve crop health and fitness.

A spin-off from research projects at the Universities of Ghent and Leuven, Aphea.Bio has two main projects: one focussing on bio-stimulants, that increase yields; and another on crop-health, ridding crops of diseases and pests. In both cases, the ‘weapon of choice’ is naturally occurring micro-organisms. “We coat the wheat/maize seeds with these micro-organisms, or we spray them onto infected leaves in the same way as we would do with chemicals, but in this case, the active ingredient is naturally occurring micro-organisms,” explains Isabel. “It’s a process that applies what is available in nature for better agriculture. We take micro-organisms from nature and place them back in the crops. It’s not that unusual actually: Studies have shown communication between plants and microbes, whereby a plant under stress, for example, will signal to micro-organisms through the soil, and actively recruit them to help battle a disease.”

In 2017, Aphea.Bio received an equity investment from V-Bio Ventures, a venture capital firm backed by the EIF under the EU’s Investment Plan for Europe. “We started with 4 people, went to 10 in 6 months and within a year we were 16,” explains Isabel. “The products are still in the early development phase, more specifically in the field validation phase. The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating: to make these products available for large-scale agriculture they need to be stable and effective in field conditions but also cost-efficient. We currently have identified a number of candidate micro-organisms and we are developing them further towards a commercial product by 2023.”

Company: Aphea.Bio (Belgium)

Type of business: Agriculture

EIF financing: RCR mandate and own resources / EFSI

Financial intermediary: V-Bio Ventures

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Belgium, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/be/index.htm

 

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