Disclosure: AFN’s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in Fyto.
- US-based agtech startup Fyto has raised $15m in Series A funding for its specialized aquatic “superplants” that can be used for animal feed, food and soil health ingredients. The company starts to feed dairy cows.
- GV (formerly Google Ventures) led the round with participation from existing investors AgFunder, Refactor Capital, First Star Ventures and Bolt.
- Fyto will use the new funding to expand commercially, grow its team and eventually expand its factories for applications beyond dairy farms.
Fyto’s automated growing environments produce protein-rich aquatic crops year-round for use as alternatives to animal feed ingredients, plant-based feeds, biofertilizers, and soil amendments.
The patented hardware-software system develops lemma, a type of duckweed, using cow manure as raw material. Fyto claims the plants have a lower carbon footprint and generate 10 to 20 times more protein per acre with 5 to 10 times less water than conventional feed ingredients, such as alfalfa.
The initial objective of the company is to develop feed for dairy cows.
Last year, Fyto completed on-farm trials of its first-generation system, said CEO and Founder Jason Prapas. APN. His system is designed to create a closed-loop process, turning farm waste into nutrients that are used to grow and harvest aquatic plants.
Fyto is exploring a hub-and-spoke model, where the company would establish growth facilities in “strategic locations” to support nearby customers.
Why is this important:
It’s no secret that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that global animal production accounts for 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – rather, those caused by humans. Livestock feed production and processing are responsible for 45% of these emissions.
Protein alternatives like plant-based meat and dairy, precision fermentation, and cell-cultured analogs are offered as solutions. It is unlikely that people will completely stop consuming animal protein. Indeed, the FAO estimates that meat and dairy consumption will double by 2050, with a significant portion of the growth coming from emerging markets, where economic growth is making meat products more affordable and accessible.
Prapas says that Fyto is able to reduce emissions from animal production in several ways:
Low to zero transportation emissions. Moving food from point of production to consumption is complex and carbon-intensive. Alfalfa can travel from California to feed cows in the Middle East; soybeans can travel from India and Turkey to feed cows in California. Those miles rack up carbon emissions, says Prapas. In contrast, Fyto’s cultivation system can operate on the farm, eliminating long shipping distances.
Use of waste streams. Agricultural waste streams often end up in water supplies as runoff and in the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, methane and CO2, says Prapas. Fyto’s system is designed to capture these waste streams and use them to grow nutritious crops, bringing value to food producers and surrounding communities.
Limit enteric emissions. Prapas claims that the higher nutritional content of Fyto feeds allows cows to digest their feed more completely. This in turn reduces a type of greenhouse gas emissions called enteric emissions (aka “cow burps”). Using third-party testing facilities, Fyto has confirmed that its feed ingredient significantly reduces enteric emissions from cows raised on its feed.
What’s next for Fyto:
Fyto will use the Series A funding to achieve commercial scale production and grow its team.
“We are building some of the greatest agricultural robots in history. This funding accelerates our ability to achieve commercial-scale operations this summer while rigorously quantifying our system and product performance,” Prapas said.
The company will also strive to expand its applications beyond just feeding dairy cows.
“Our aquatic robotics platform has a huge number of potential applications, from animal feed to food to fertilizer,” adds Prapas. “We are excited about how this funding will allow us to expand our impact across industries.”