Enko Chem: Growing Next-Generation Crop Protection Solutions
November 4, 2020 | Ashley Brindamour
Farmers are increasingly struggling to protect their crops from diseases and pests. An article published by Cornell: Alliance for Science states that up to 40 percent of crop loss is due to the threat of over 600 pathogens and pests.
At the same time, AgChem industry R&D innovation has drastically declined due to increased expense, regulatory standards, and environmental concerns. Innovation at the major AgChem suppliers has stalled, with 80% of products now off-patent.
Founded in 2017, Enko Chem, an Alumni Ventures Group portfolio company, is revolutionizing the future of crop protection through an innovative approach to R&D. The company specializes in discovering small molecules for the control of pests, weeds, and fungi that produce toxic compounds and decrease crop quality.
A Faster and More Efficient Solution
Enko’s approach is modeled after successful drug discovery companies. Enko Chem uses artificial intelligence to expand the chemical search space. This allows researchers to target higher-value molecules to combat resistance, improve safety, and maximize value potential. As a result, potential solutions are determined at a fraction of the time and cost, and environmental safety is factored into the process from the earliest stages of development.
Enko’s platform also leverages pest management, farmer training, and product stewardship to improve results. This integrated approach helps farmers achieve better soil health and water use, as well as increased resilience to climate change and reduced land deforestation. Above all, this fast and efficient approach ensures sustainable food production.
What to Look Forward to
Currently, Enko’s technology platform is targeting unique challenges in crop protection, including novel and undervalued herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and other pesticides. By 2025, it’s estimated that the market for herbicides will be $79B, insecticides $70B, and fungicides $24B.
What We Liked About the Deal
Qualified Team Members: Led by a world-class team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors, we believe Enko has the talent and resources to be a compelling acquisition for one of the AgChem R&D majors or an IPO candidate. The full team averages 20 years of experience in top life science firms such as Dow, Monsanto, DuPont, and Pfizer.
Competitive Power: Leveraging a combination of artificial intelligence/machine learning, DNA-encoded libraries, and other computational tools through its proprietary tech platform, Enko is building a massive dataset for broad crop protection applications. Its Design-Test-Learn loop delivers critical development benefits that reduce discovery time and cost while optimizing candidates for potency, efficacy, and safety.
Strong Partnerships: Enko has a number of undisclosed R&D collaborations in place. In addition to serving global agricultural markets, Enko is looking to bring access to its technology to smallholder farmers in underserved markets in partnership with investor The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The company plans to conduct field trials on its leading candidates across the globe, starting in North and South America.
Generating Substantial Alumni Connections
Alumni Ventures Group’s investment in Enko Chem was led by Castor Ventures, a fund for MIT alumni and friends. Castor connected with Enko through a relationship with CEO and Co-Founder Jacqueline Heard, an MIT graduate.
Enko raised a Series B round of $45M led by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Co-investors included Anterra Capital, Rabo Ventures, Novalis Life Sciences, Finistere Ventures, and Germin8 Ventures.