Amfora Raises $5 Million in Series A Venture Round
Biotech company will use the funding to accelerate the development of crops for improved human and animal nutrition
SAN FRANCISCO - Apr 12, 2017 - Amfora Inc., a biotech start-up focused on developing crops with enhanced nutritional content, today announced the closing of a Series A financing. San Francisco-based Spruce Capital, co-manager of the MLS Fund II, led the round, which included participation from The Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the globally renowned Australian-based national science agency.
Amfora will use the proceeds of the financing to develop forage crops that address the growing demand for meat and dairy products in the developed and developing world. Amfora's initial focus will be to develop forage crops with higher energy density, which will increase the productivity of dairy cattle while reducing the cost and improving the sustainability of milk production.
In conjunction with its investment in Amfora, CSIRO granted to Amfora a worldwide, exclusive license to CSIRO's proprietary technology to increase energy density in specified forage crops. CSIRO is a leader in the creation and development of novel product traits in crop plants. "The vegetative oil technology is yet another example of product innovation coming from the pioneering metabolic engineering research conducted in CSIRO's Plant Oil Engineering Group," said Allan Green, Innovation Leader for Biobased Products at CSIRO Agriculture and Food.
"Improved standards of living are substantially increasing the global demand for protein," said Lloyd M. Kunimoto, Amfora's President and CEO. "Increasing the energy density of forage crops is as much as a $3 billion annual market opportunity in the United States alone, and up to a $12 billion annual opportunity globally. Amfora will develop its own products and collaborate with leaders in the field of forage crop genetics to address this opportunity."
Amfora intends to convert millions of acres that currently produce low-value commodity forage crops into acres that produce high-value crops that have been enhanced to increase protein production efficiency. In addition to increasing the energy density of forage crops, Amfora intends to build a pipeline of forage products that incorporate multiple approaches to increasing protein production efficiency and crop productivity, as well as develop nutritionally enhanced crops for human nutrition.
"We established Amfora to become a major vehicle to address the global demand for protein," said Ganesh Kishore, Managing Director of Spruce Capital, and a member of Amfora's Board of Directors. "We are pleased that CSIRO is investing in Amfora alongside of Spruce/MLS II, and we look forward to working with CSIRO and Amfora's management to build Amfora into a very valuable seed and trait company."
Amfora President and CEO Kunimoto previously served as Vice President of Corporate Strategy of Monsanto, a global leader in the development and commercialization of agricultural products. Michael Lassner, Chief Science Officer of Amfora, previously served as Vice President of Trait Discovery of DuPont Pioneer, a global leader in commercialization of seed products developed through the application of genetic and genomic technologies. Jonathan Burbaum, a Spruce Capital Entrepreneur-in-Residence, helped to co-found Amfora and currently serves as Amfora's Chief Strategy Officer. Spruce Capital/MLS II Fund previously provided seed funding for the company.
"We are pleased to have such an accomplished and experienced team to lead Amfora," said Roger Wyse, Managing Director of Spruce Capital, and Chairman of Amfora's Board of Directors. "Lloyd and Mike know what it takes to apply proprietary technology to create breakthrough products, and we look forward to working with them to build a valuable pipeline at Amfora."
Lindsay Adler, Executive Manager of Global Business Development for CSIRO and leader of the organization's U.S.-based investment operations, will also serve on the Amfora Board of Directors.
"Amfora represents a new business model for CSIRO, namely, investing in U.S.-based starts-ups that will be commercialization vehicles for CSIRO technology," said Mr. Adler. "CSIRO is eager to work with Amfora to apply its technology to important forage crops that will address the global need for efficient protein production."
Amfora is an emerging leader in the use of biotechnology to address the rapidly growing global demand for protein. Amfora is working to develop nutritionally enhanced forage crops for a market expected to have an annual value of as much as $12 billion a year. The company is based in San Francisco, California and is a portfolio company of Spruce Capital Partners LLC/MLS II Fund.
About Spruce Capital Partners
The principals and founders of Spruce Capital Partners, Dr. Ganesh Kishore, Dr. Roger Wyse, and Greg Young, are well known investors and thought leaders in the biogreentech sector. They bring a wealth of experience as investors, advisers, and domain experts in helping entrepreneurs build the next generation of successful biogreentech companies. They formed Spruce Capital Partners not only to manage venture funds, but also to develop new talent for the industry, provide thought leadership, and promote innovation in companies and countries. The principals have worked together for more than 10 years and have shepherded investments across multiple funds and multiple sectors. They are also active in advising, partnering, and shaping the life sciences industry globally and, especially in Malaysia and the United States. Spruce Capital Partners is a co-manager of the MLS Capital Fund II. Additional information is available at www.sprucecp.com.
As Australia's national science agency, CSIRO has been pushing the boundaries of what is possible in innovation, science and technology for more than a century. CSIRO has a multidisciplinary team of over 5,000 talented people based in 55 centers, and delivers impact nationally and globally through close collaboration with industry, governments and communities. CSIRO's diverse scientific breakthroughs and inventions benefit billions of people around the world each day, from WiFi and flu treatments to insect repellents and plastic banknotes. CSIRO is focused on addressing tomorrow's scientific breakthroughs and finding the answers to Australia's greatest challenges. Visit www.csiro.au.