Next-generation agro-biologicals for a sustainable future

The Company

Setting the scene

"Agricultural biologicals" is a broad term for naturally occurring substances such as microorganisms and natural extracts that have the potential to improve the health status and yield of crops. Biologicals can complement or substitute agricultural chemical products and lead to an urgently needed, more sustainable agriculture. According to the latest analyses, the market for agricultural biologicals is growing and will continue to grow at a CAGR of 14.6%. The agricultural biologicals market was valued at around USD 7.00 Billion in 2017, and is projected to reach close to 13 Billion by 2022.

The Company

Aphea.Bio's mission is "Applied Nature for better Agriculture" and develops new and superior agricultural biologicals. We concentrate on products that help reduce fertilizer application (biostimulants) and control fungal diseases (biocontrol agents) sustainably in maize and wheat. Aphea.Bio was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of the VIB and its partner universities UGent and KU Leuven and has raised about USD 10 million in funding. The company can count on a solid scientific team and strong leadership team with many years of experience in science and business. The company is led by Dr. Isabel Vercauteren as CEO (ex-Bayer, ex-DevGen) and Dr. Steven Vandenabeele (ex-CropDesign/BASF) as CSO.

Technology Platform

Aphea.Bio is in a unique position to deliver novel and powerful solutions to the market because of its innovative research and development platform. The R&D platform bundles several proprietary technologies which make up a high-throughput pipeline for discovery of new biocontrol and biostimulant products for wheat and maize.

The Mission

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Applied Nature

Better Agriculture

Solid Foundations

Applied Nature

Inspired by Microbiology

Over millions of years, plants have evolved close relationships with the microorganisms in their environment. These relationships can be highly beneficial to plants and improve health and growth. Targeted application of microorganisms that engage in these beneficial relationships can boost the fitness of crops in a natural way.

Better Agriculture

Sustainable farming for healthy food

Microorganisms can support plants in different ways, which is reflected in Aphea.Bio's product development strategy. We focus on microbial strains that improve plant nutrient uptake (biostimulants) and strains that protect against disease (biocontrol). Our mission is to provide farmers with innovative and sustainable solutions to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use.

Solid Foundations

Biology meets Technology

Unravelling complex interactions and identifying beneficial microbial strains requires solid scientific insights. To this end Aphea.Bio has developed an innovative R&D platform bundling different technologies in bio-informatics and microbiome mapping, state-of-the-art microorganism culturing, high-throughput crop phenotyping and data analysis.

Research & Development

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Strain Identification

Strain Isolation

Strain Validation

Product Development

1. Strain Identification

The goal of Aphea.Bio is to identify naturally occurring microorganisms that display desired qualities for stimulating plant growth and health. To find exactly those beneficial organisms amongst a multitude of candidates, Aphea.Bio relies on expertise in agriculture, soil science and genomics to pinpoint specific soils and plant environments that are most likely to contain strains of interest. Combining these extensive sampling efforts with advanced genomics techniques provides us with in depth knowledge of plant-microbiome interactions and guides the selection of microbial candidates.

2. Strain Isolation

Environmental samples are further processed to isolate the constituent microorganisms and grow them into pure colonies. Proprietary culturing methods enable Aphea.Bio to tap into the pool of difficult to culture organisms, some of which may have been cultured for the very first time. Pure colonies are then transferred to the Aphea.Bio proprietary strain collection where they are cryopreserved and redundantly stored. This combination of specific isolation techniques and sampling strategies, allows Aphea.Bio to build a collection that emphasizes specific classes of microorganisms such as endophytic and rhizospheric bacteria of our target crops.

3. Strain Validation

The beneficial qualities of the members of the Aphea.Bio strain collection are validated and their potential as end product is assessed. The strains are subjected to an extensive series of tests in the Aphea.Bio screening platform. Strains are tested in silico, in vitro and in planta for a wide range of characteristics relating to their potential as a biocontrol agent or biostimulant. In planta tests are carried out in our state-of-the-art greenhouse and growth chambers where parameters for plant growth and plant health are meticulously monitored and statistically analysed. The most promising candidates are tested in field trials which is the final stage in the process. Throughout the screening process, all data is captured and stored in a comprehensive data management system.

4. Product Development

Developing a promising strain into a successful product poses very specific challenges. The strain has to be produced at high volumes, an application method needs to be found that is compliant with ruling agricultural practices and the strain needs to be properly packaged. Aphea.Bio has the necessary expertise in house to develop customized formulations and test different application methods. This ensures that we can match each strain with a tailormade formulation to maximize its potential.

The Team

Steven Vandenabeele

Steven Vandenabeele holds a PhD in biotechnology (University of Ghent) and has over 20 years of experience in plant biotech (VIB, Rockefeller University, BASF Plant Science). Steven has worked in the ag-biotech industry for more than 12 years: he worked at BASF Plant Science as a group leader Technology Management, as the coordinator for the high-throughput plant phenotyping platform, and as global research manager of the rice yield project.

Serving in these functions, he has gained strong experience in people, process and research project management. Three years ago, together with the VIB, he built the business strategy to develop superior agricultural biologicals based on microbials and co-founded Aphea.Bio NV.

Aphea.Bio NV is currently operational since 2017, strongly backed by venture capital. Steven is Aphea.Bio's Chief Technology and Scientific Officer and heads a team of 22 expert scientists.

Isabel Vercauteren

Isabel Vercauteren is the CEO and co-founder of Aphea.Bio. Between 2008 and 2016 Isabel was employed at Bayer CropScience where she held different positions in R&D with a strong focus on alliance management, technology licensing and new venture management.

Before joining Bayer, Isabel worked for four years at DevGen (acquired Syngenta in 2013) as manager responsible for the plant nematology group and as a project leader for the development of Bt rice for the Indian market.

Isabel has strong expertise in plant biotechnology research, technology valuation and licensing, business development, deal making & negotiation and project management.

Isabel holds a Ph.D. in plant molecular biology and a postgraduate in Biosafety and Regulatory in Plant Biotechnology from the University of Ghent, Belgium.

Team Members

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Our investors