I (Jamie) have been in biotech for over a dozen years. A decade ago, I was at a biofuels company working to grow algae, and fungi ruined our crop. At the time I realized that if we could control the ecosystem, we could prevent these kinds of agricultural disasters. In the meantime, Adam, as a professor at Berkeley National Lab and UC-Berkeley over the last two decades, had been developing a technology platform to understand microbial ecology. When Adam and I met a few years ago, we realized that his technology could address these kinds of challenges. No longer interested in algae as a crop, we saw the opportunity in high-value crops. These include strawberries in the field, apples post-harvest and cannabis as an exploding opportunity.
We’re clearly not the first ones to think about microbial products for ag. What sets our approach apart is the technology that Adam developed. Using his approach, we are able to determine what we call an interaction map – the complete set of interactions between microbes from a given environment. The interaction map generates leads for us, including groups of microbes that work together as ‘consortia’. Our current lead product candidates are in fact consortia.
Our first product is a soil amendment being sold into the cannabis market. There’s a real excitement of the opportunities for the market to expand, and it’s an industry full of early-adopters. We’re looking longer term, though, as our products will address food production and waste. Fungi destroy enough food to feed 600M people every year—this represents 60% of the people going hungry every year! This is the kind of impact we’re after with our tech and with the company.
We look forward to discussing the opportunity and technology!