By Nathan Rubbelke, St. Louis Business Journal | November 16, 2021
Plastomics, a St. Louis-based biotechnology startup, plans to advance its crop improvement technology after raising $7.1 million from investors.
Local investment firm Lewis & Clark AgriFood led Plastomics’ Series A financing. Several new backers of the startup invested in the deal, including Fulcrum Global Capital, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, QRM Capital, iiM and GIS Spectrum. Existing investors in the Series A round include iSelect Fund, Missouri Technology Corp., Yield Lab, BioGenerator and Centennial Investors.
Plastomics already had raised seed capital earlier this year in a follow-on funding round that was led by BioGenerator, the investment arm of innovation hub BioSTL, and also included Yield Lab.
Founded in 2017, Plastomics has created engineering technology designed to deliver traits to a plant’s chloroplast instead of its nucleus to improve crops and their yield.
“Plastomics is delivering a game-changing solution that pushes the boundaries of what is possible through seed and crop protection products to meet the demands of farmers who are looking for ways to sustainably improve outcomes,” said Steve Welker, operating partner at Lewis & Clark AgriFood. “The industry will find this technology very exciting, and Lewis & Clark AgriFood is excited to be a part of it.”
As part of the financing round, Welker is joining Plastomics’ board of directors. John Peryam, partner and general counsel at Fulcrum Global Capital, will also join the board.
CEO Martha Schlicher said Plastomics' Series A funding comes as it has experienced promising results in the laboratory for its technology. The initial crops being targeted by the company are soybean and corn.
“In order to take that from the laboratory to the greenhouse and ultimately to the field takes people and money,” Schlicher said. “We really needed to increase the size of the team and really build into our planning the experiments that we need to do to show, first of all, that the platform is performing, and secondly, that the platform can deliver traits in a better way via the chloroplast than via the nucleus.”
Plastomics hopes those development efforts ultimately generate “significant grower and seed company interest,” Schlicher said. She said seed companies will be key collaborators for the startup and could ultimately end up acquiring its technology, A likely exit for the startup could involve a seed company acquiring its technology for a specific crop like soybean or corn or acquiring the entire company, Schlicher said.
As it ramps up its R&D efforts, Plastomics has added to its team. Schlicher said the firm has hired employees as it worked toward closing its Series A round, growing to a staff of 18. Plastomics had eight employees prior to the Series A round.
In addition to her role as Plastomics’ CEO, Schlicher is an entrepreneur in residence with BioGenerator, which has been a key backer of Plastomics. BioGenerator Senior Vice President Charlie Bolten is the startup’s chairman.
Plastomics operates out of the 39 North innovation district in Creve Coeur. It has its laboratories and offices at the Helix Center and conducts greenhouse operations at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.