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Phytoform Labs

Problem

Increasing demands for healthy eating and home cooking have outstripped supplies of fresh herbs. In order to increase supply producers have expanded greenhouse facilities, but this is costly (£3.75M/greenhouse) and energy inefficient.

An alternative is to cross-breed new plant varieties, but this is a risky process that can cost up to £3M and take at least 10 years. This may be justified for staple crops, but horticulture crops like herbs may never have access to these breeding facilities due to the high costs of conventional breeding.

Solution

Phytoform Labs is using a unique workflow to develop our first products: high yield fresh herbs. The new high yielding herb varieties will address the problem of increasing demand in Europe, the US and globally. Individual products like basil, coriander, mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage will have their leaf biomass increased by up to 30%. This will allow producers to save resources, increase their profit margins and enable more sustainable herb production. Consumers will also benefit from better quality healthy ingredients.

Uniqueness, Technology overview, barriers to competition

Our innovative workflow is a combination of trade secret genomics, novel molecular technique known as CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and proprietary automated screening technology. This process can cut down plant breeding times from an average of 8-12 years to 2 years, save money (from £3M/variety to estimated £200k/variety) and eliminate chance from plant breeding. This is a technology platform that potentially allows any plant species to be designed with better characteristics and improved in a fast cost-effective manner.

Market size and analysis

The herbs and spices market is £2Bn globally and of that £100M is the UK fresh herb market, which grows at 18% CAGR. In Germany the value is £120M and it grows at 13% CAGR. Horticulture market overall is worth £120bn in Europe. It presents high value added as it uses only 3% of overall agriculture land in Europe, but accounts for 18% of total value of agriculture production.

Traction

We have proven the herb yield trait in a lab and we are developing IP related to the variety breeding workflow. We are in confidential discussions with UK based herb producers. We expect that first high yield herbs will be ready for trials and licensing in Q1 2020.

Core Team

Phytoform Labs is currently led by two co-founders, CEO William Pelton and CTO Dr Nicolas Kral. The R&D work is the responsibility of lead scientist Dr Hadi Coe. The team is supported by Innovate UK and Climate-KIC and also receives advice from SynbiCITE.
First Name Last Name Job Title Impressive Facts
William Pelton CEO Entrepreneur & Plant Science Expert who developed first gene edited potato in UK while member of Horticulture and Potato Initiative during his time at Imperial College London.
Nicolas Kral CTO Inventor and Synthetic Biology enthusiast who published in high level scientific journal and led more than 10 undergraduate and masters level students when based at Imperial College London.
Hadi Coe Lead Scientist Plant Science Expert who published in several high level scientific journals and developed a novel method for plant tissue culture during his time at the Warwick University for which he filed a patent.

Ask, use of proceeds, milestones

Phytoform Labs plans to raise £300k to develop the first high yield herb varieties over the next 18 months and begin commercialisation with interested customers by Q1 2020. Two additional milestones are to find new opportunities for crop improvement and continue development of proprietary workflow aiming to generate revenue from licensing the process IP.

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