KANSAS CITY, Mo.—March 7, 2017—TechAccel, the Kansas City–based technology and venture development company, today announced it has completed an equity investment in Epicrop Technologies Inc., an agriculture biotechnology company developing revolutionary epigenetic technology to improve crop yields.
This investment is part of Epicrop’s extended Series A round, which raised a total of $3.2 million. Additional investments were made by North Forty Ventures, Nelnet, Speedway Properties and Allen & Company. TechAccel has committed to make additional investments to support science advancement with Epicrop.
Epicrop is a Lincoln, Neb.-based startup co-founded by Dr. Sally Mackenzie, a pioneer in epigenetics in agriculture, which is a type of biological information that involves changes in gene expression but does not change a plant’s DNA or add genes. In field and greenhouse trials, Epicrop’s epigenetically improved plants—including soybeans, tomatoes and sorghum— show increased yields and stress tolerance.
“We believe Dr. Mackenzie’s research may represent the most important breakthrough in crop breeding technology of this era,” said Jeff Raikes, principal of North Forty Ventures and lead investor in the series. “We’re pleased to support the commercialization of this research at Epicrop and look forward to the impact it will have for global agriculture.”
Michael Helmstetter, Ph.D., president and CEO of TechAccel, said, “We believe Epicrop is emerging as a leader with its revolutionary plant breeding platform, and TechAccel is ready to collaborate with Epicrop to advance this science for at least two additional crops.”
TechAccel is a venture and technology development company in the agriculture and animal health sectors that invests in or acquires new technology and funds science advancement programs with research university partners to assist in commercialization.
“We’re excited to have TechAccel in our corner, both as an investor and a research partner advancing our technology,” said Dr. Michael Fromm, CEO of Epicrop. “Their expertise and support will help Epicrop accelerate its programs demonstrating the enormous potential of epigenetics to increase yields and stress tolerance in a variety of crops.”
Epicrop has received two Phase 1 competitive federal Small Business Innovation Research grants and is partnering with several seed industry leaders to begin improving current elite commercial varieties.
“Increasing yield and stress tolerance are key goals of most seed companies,” Fromm said. “Epicrop’s method has the potential to provide these traits by adding epigenetic information directly to the seeds of commercial varieties without adding any genetic material. The unique features of this method readily fit into traditional commercial breeding and seed production methods to facilitate company adoption of this system.”
“The pressure is on all of us in agriculture to deliver higher performing plants in the face of challenges like climate change and increasing global demand,” said Dr. Mackenzie. “This technology is a critical step forward in addressing those problems head on.”
TechAccel and Epicrop expect to create a joint venture to pursue new target crops using Epicrop’s technology. Additional terms were not disclosed.
In February 2017, TechAccel completed an investment in Agrivida Inc., a St. Louis-based agriculture technology company focused on animal nutrition.
Epicrop Technologies Inc. is a seed technology licensing company based in Lincoln, Neb. Epicrop’s technology platform utilizes conventional plant breeding techniques and cutting edge molecular markers to create and select plants with enhanced yield and vigor characteristics. The epigenetic platform is based on breakthrough epigenetic discoveries made by co-founder Sally Mackenzie, professor of agronomy and horticulture at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
TechAccel, LLC, was founded in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind venture and technology development company in the agriculture, animal health and food sectors. TechAccel sources, invests in and acquires early-stage innovations. Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, TechAccel conducts advancement and de-risking research and development to ready technologies for commercialization. For more information, visit www.TechAccel.net or follow @Tech_Accel.