“The agriculture world is looking for technology to maintain the effectiveness of biotech crops because, in the face of climate change and all these other challenges, we have to maintain that high level of productivity,” said Sharon Berberich, ag industry veteran and Ag Innovation Showcase advisor, in an interview with Silicon Prairie News.
Sharon Berberich established a 25 year career for herself in AgTech with senior positions at Monsanto, DowAgrosciences, Danforth Science Center, and Kaiima and now she finds herself at the helm of Plastomics, a startup using chloroplast engineering to develop the next generation of high performing crops.
While at and in transition for her senior level positions, Sharon has been a long-time veteran of the Ag Innovation Showcase. Under her guidance, SomaDetect and NanoGuard Technologies won the “Ideas, Energized” and “People’s Choice” awards at showcase, respectively. Now with extensive experience in running AgTech R&D programs as well as mentoring startups, Sharon has started her own.
In the next 10 years, global food consumption will increase to 50%. The planet needs to find a way to increase its overall food production in a way that doesn’t further contribute to environmental problems. Plastomics has a solution: engineering plant chloroplasts. The chloroplast is where plants convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy for the plant. Plastomics’ chloroplast engineering is a platform that can efficiently introduce multiple traits into the chloroplast and enable simple breeding of traits, such as insect resistance and drought tolerance.
Founded in December of last year by Jeff Staub, Sharon joined this February. Just recently the company has managed to secure seed round funding, led by BioGenerator and The Yield Lab. The funds will be used to set up tobacco, soy and corn platforms and to create proof of concept products.
SomaDetect, which provides dairy farmers with key milk quality indicators to identify diseases in cows and produce the best quality milk, has won the $1M Grand Prize Winner of 43North, a startup pitch competition.
Founded in 2016, SomaDetect uses light-scattering to track the particles in milk samples in order to detect diseases, track fat and protein content within the milk, and help farmers make informed decisions. The company has recently reached another breakthrough: a new advanced technology that detects the presence of progesterone and somatic cell counts, which will allow farmers to monitor the reproductive status of their herds.
“Winning 43North is absolutely incredible for our company, and a concrete sign that people care about their food and are stepping up to support farmers who are making great products for us and our families.” says Bethany Deshpande, CEO of SomaDetect. “In addition to the $1 M, this win gives us access to office space in Buffalo, and access to mentors and advisors in the region. It’s incredible because New York is a state with lots of dairy and is a huge opportunity for us! We are excited to get our product to market in New York and to begin making sales throughout the region.”
This is SomaDetect’s third award in three months. Just one month prior to winning the 43North grand prize, SomaDetect won the Ideas, Energized award at Larta’s Ag Innovation Showcase. In August, the company won $50,000 at a Fierce Founders Bootcamp competition.
SomaDetect will be staying in Buffalo for at least the next year and anticipates growing by 25 members by the end of 2018. Read more here.
Mango Materials announced at SynBioBeta 2017 that the company is paving a path to biodegradable fibers with greenhouse gases. Waste methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2, is now the key to create fibers that can be made into clothing. Mango Materials technology uses microorganisms to turn CO2 into a biological version of polyester that is economically competitive with conventional oil-based materials.
With Mango Material’s innovation, consumers will be able to compost clothing made from the biopolymer. Even if garments end up in a landfill, they will biodegrade naturally. If garments made of their fiber land in the ocean, marine organisms will be able to digest the fibers . If the methane released in landfills is captured at the point of production, it can be used make new garments, creating industrial loops of product to waste to product. While the company will focus on clothing markets first, their biopolymer can be applied to packaging and other plastic-based goods, too.
Made up of engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators, Mango Materials was incorporated in 2010 and received its first round of funding in 2011. Mango Materials first connected with Larta when they were awarded an NSF SBIR grant and participated in a commercialization assistance program in 2012. The company was then selected to present at the 2015 Ag Innovation Showcase in St Louis.
Read more about Mango Materials biodegradable fibers at Fast Company.
DuPont Pioneer, one of world’s largest agriculture companies, recently launched an Open Innovation program because, in the words of the company’s Mat Müller, Director of Business Development, and an Ag Innovation Showcase advisory committee member and speaker at this year’s Ag Innovation Showcase, “We are fully aware that we cannot do it alone.”