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Sustainable wheat innovator Aphea.Bio (Flanders) gets boost

Astanor Ventures, Europe’s largest impact fund, is investing in Aphea.Bio, a biotech company based in Ghent, Flanders. With a capital injection of EUR 14 million from both Astanor Ventures and Aphea.Bio’s original investors, the agritech expert will kick off the process of developing and launching an approved biological crop protection product based on microorganisms, taking a step towards more sustainable cultivation of wheat. In 2022, Aphea.Bio plans to apply for the approval; market introduction is scheduled for one year later. “The next two to three years will be very exciting,” says Isabel Vercauteren, CEO of Aphea.Bio.

Farm to fork

A substantial part of the fresh capital will come from Astanor Ventures. This fund specializes in impact investments, where returns are not only measured based on financial parameters, but also in terms of how they contribute to a more sustainable world. The investment comes at the perfect time, as Aphea.Bio has been developing initiatives in line with the European Green Deal and the “farm to fork” strategy of the European Commission. The intention of the new regulations that come with this strategy is to give European consumers easier access to more sustainable food, while reducing the use of chemicals and overfertilization in agriculture.

Isabel Vercauteren, CEO of Aphea.Bio – which based its technology on research conducted by scientists at the university of Ghent (UGent) –, expects that large producers of seeds and pesticides will accelerate their efforts to find organic solutions.

The Green Deal is a very important opportunity. We will have to step up our efforts on all fronts. In addition, we are talking to various potential partners for R&D collaborations. In the coming years, we will not only be working on making organic products for wheat ready for the market, but also on the development of other products. The technology for identifying promising microorganisms can serve various other purposes as well, including insecticides and herbicides.

Isabel Vercauteren
CEO of Aphea.Bio

Various investors

Aphea.Bio was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of VIB, Flanders’ strategic research center for biotech and life sciences. In addition to Astanor Ventures, the original investors in Aphea.Bio were also involved in the latest capital injection round. These include VIB, V-Bio Ventures, Qbic II, Agri Investment Fund (Boerenbond), the Vives Fund and the Gemma Frisius Fund (KU Leuven).

Green biotech expertise galore

Aphea.Bio is far from the only innovative company on the sustainable agribusiness block in Flanders. In fact, one of its sector peers – American biotech company Inari – was presented with Flanders Investment & Trade’s 2020 Newcomer of the Year Trophy for a groundbreaking foreign investment that is bound to revolutionize agriculture. Just like Aphea.Bio, Inari calls Ghent’s leading biotech valley home, where it focuses its R&D efforts on greater efficiency in the water and nitrogen consumption of crops.

More info

Reported by
newspaper De Standaard
4 December 2020

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