BigSis, a British-based agtech start-up using AI and robotics to provide chemical-free insect control to the world’s farmers and growers, has announced the successful closure of its over-subscribed series A round at £4.5 million.
The round was led by Regenerate Ventures, the specialist agricultural innovation fund focused on the decarbonization and sustainability of food production. Further funds came from the board, other repeat investors and high-net-worth individuals.
The new round comes 14 months after a seed plus round of £1.5 million, which achieved significant milestones, including publication of the successful world-first field trial that demonstrated a 91 percent reduction in spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive pest of fruit crops.
BigSis solutions are based on the sterile insect technique (SIT). SIT’s basic premise is simple – breed and sterilize male insects, then release them into the crop where they mate with wild females to produce no offspring. This prevents the rapid increase in pest populations that leads to crop damage. The BigSis solution is species-specific, non-toxic and non-GMO.
SIT has been used for more than 60 years but held back in practice by the expense of rearing and selecting insects. BigSis’ SIT breakthrough has been the use of artificial intelligence and robotics to re-invent insect rearing, cutting the cost of SIT by as much as 90 percent to make it an affordable, farm-scale solution.
Farmers will subscribe to a season-long service, with BigSis taking care of insect releases and crop monitoring. The company is experiencing strong traction for its SWD control solution, which will be available only in England for 2023.
According to Glen Slade, BigSis founder and CEO, while the company is currently focused on SWD control, it plans to launch several more solutions in the coming years, including for codling moth.
“A major advantage of SIT is its minimal regulation,” notes Slade, with sales already approved in England and four U.S. states including California. “The zero regulatory cost and zero delay in securing approvals contrasts with the increasingly onerous regulation associated with conventional agrochemical active substances.
“The scope for SIT solutions in crops worldwide is enormous, as agriculture seeks to address the ‘perfect storm’ facing chemical insecticides – regulatory pressure, consumer demand for ‘greener’ food, and the growing problem of insects’ resistance,” he adds.
Photo: Soft fruit is particularly vulnerable to damage from spotted-wing drosophila (SWD). BigSis’ sterile insect technique has achieved 91 percent control in trials.
Find out more about biocontrol and the science of biomes at New AG International's event 13-14 December, Biocontrol & Biomes, in Madrid, Spain, here.