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EuroChem and Aphea.Bio launch R&D collaboration

EuroChem Group AG ("EuroChem" or the "Group"), a leading global fertilizer producer, and Belgium-based biotechnology company Aphea.Bio announce the signing of a research and development agreement.

The agreement will see the two companies collaborate on the development of next-generation fertilizer technologies designed to significantly boost the take-up of key nutrients by plants. The research will utilize data and samples from scientific field trials at 10 different locations all over Europe.

EuroChem, which with the recent launch of potash mining became one of just three companies in the world to produce fertilizers in all three primary nutrient categories, is developing enhanced efficiency and slow-release fertilizers that are optimized for different soil conditions. These help improve yields and enable farmers to grow more crops from the same amount of land, vital as the world's population continues to grow. The increased nutrient uptake also minimizes losses to the environment.

Dr Thomas Mannheim (head of Global R&D for Premium Products EuroChem):"This agreement will further strengthen EuroChem's commitment to investing in innovation. We are committed to helping farmers optimize resource use and enabling them to enhance their yields and economic benefit."

Dr. Isabel Vercauteren (CEO Aphea.Bio):"We are delighted to have signed EuroChem as our first commercial partner. EuroChem has deep expertise in the mineral fertilizer sector and we look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration together."

Commercial terms of the agreement between the two companies have not been disclosed.

Aphea.Bio aims at leading position in next generation agricultural biologicals

New VIB spin-off launches with 9 million euros in funding

VIB, Ghent University and KU Leuven have launched a new spin-off: Aphea.Bio. This new company will develop sustainable agricultural products based on natural microorganisms to increase crop yields and to protect them against specific fungal diseases. Thanks to a successful Series A financing round and an R&D grant approved by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), Aphea.Bio is now backed by 9 million euros of funding, giving it a clear shot at a leading position in the fast-emerging market of biopesticides and biostimulants. Headquartered in Ghent, Belgium, Aphea.Bio will be led by CEO Dr. Isabel Vercauteren and CSO Dr. Steven Vandenabeele.

The VIB spin-off pulls together resources and expertise in plant-bacteria interactions of the lab of prof. Sofie Goormachtig (VIB-Ghent University) and microbiome know-how contributed by the group of prof. Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven).

Superior microorganisms for sustainable agriculture

Aphea.Bio will develop next generation 'biopesticides' based on natural microorganisms. These products will provide an alternative for chemical pesticides, which are currently under serious pressure. In addition, the company will develop novel 'biostimulants', i.e. microorganisms that stimulate crop growth, for example through promoting the uptake of nutrients from the soil.

Dr. Isabel Vercauteren (CEO Aphea.Bio):"This financing puts us in an excellent position to develop new and superior agricultural products based on naturally occurring microorganisms that have a growth promoting or protective effect on the plant. We distinguish ourselves in this growing and competitive market through our unique technology platform. A large number of microorganisms that coexist with plants haven't been isolated so far, yet our expertise allows us to exploit this untapped microbial space. Our applications are focused on staple crops such as wheat, barley and maize, because they offer the most valuable European and global market opportunities."

Successful funding round

In total, Aphea.Bio has raised 7.7 million euros in capital. The series A financing round was led by V-Bio Ventures and was joined by a broad syndicate of investors including PMV, Agri Investment Fund, VIVES, Qbic II, Gemma Frisius Fund KU Leuven, Group De Ceuster and VIB itself.

Furthermore, Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) has approved an R&D grant worth 1.3 million euros, bringing Aphea.Bio's total financial resources to 9 million euros.

Dr. Willem Broekaert (Managing Partner V-Bio Ventures):"We are highly pleased to have built a strong investor consortium that provides the necessary financial backing for this innovative start-up company. This group of investors also brings along a unique network through their relationships with scientific institutions and key players in the agricultural sector."

Dr. Johan Cardoen (Managing Director VIB):"This is a great example of the vital impact of basic plant research on sustainable agriculture. All stakeholders are committed to propel Aphea.Bio into a leading position in the agro-biologicals sector. The last piece of the puzzle has been laid to make this company successful: there is now a strong team in place composed of passionate scientists with academic as well as strong industry background."