Phytelligence is raising more cash to further develop its technology that helps grow food crops like apples, cherries, hops, and nuts more effectively.
The Seattle startup just closed on $6.95 million of a larger Series B round that could total $16 million. Cowles Company led the investment, which included participation from WRF Capital. Total funding in the 70-person company is $12.6 million.
Founded in 2012 out of Washington State University, Phytelligence has developed proprietary, non-GMO technology to grow crops at a faster clip and with a lower mortality rate. The company has delivered more than one million plants to growers and nurseries around the country.
“The Phytelligence growing process means that plants are healthier, virus-free and genetically confirmed before we ship,” the company notes on its website. “Plants are grown in greenhouses and delivered in Ellie pots meaning the root system is never destroyed, eliminating the risk of transfer shock.”
Phytelligence grows its trees through a proprietary tissue culture process called MultiPHY. The four-step process grows trees in a custom gel blend rather than traditional soil; this method provides all necessary nutrients without the need for water, which saves time and money for growers. The controlled environment also allows the plants to grow more quickly.
The fresh funding will also go toward research for developing and commercializing new crop varieties of apples, cherries, pears, and grapes.
“This influx of funding gives us the capital needed to continue our rapid expansion to meet the needs of growers domestically and internationally,” Phytelligence CEO Ken Hunt said in a statement. “The success of our company validates the demand for our proprietary technology and the need for a change in the current nursery system. We’re looking forward to expanding our footprint and providing growers with the highest quality, true-to-type plant material and compound solutions for agronomic and consumer benefit.”
Hunt joined the company in late 2015; COO Tyler Spurgeon and CRO Tim O’Brien were also hired to the executive team at the time. Since then, Phytelligence has grown its workforce from 12 to 70 full-timers while opening an 8-acre greenhouse in Burien, Wash., and a tissue culture lab in Portland. It also has a research and development lab in Pullman, Wash. The company was founded in 2012 by Dr. Amit Dhingra, an associate professor of Horticulture Genomics and Biotechnology Research at Washington State University.