Bayer Funds California Startup Seeking to Curb Fertilizer Use

Bayer AG and other investors will funnel $45 million to an agriculture startup that claims its products can cut 30% of global nitrogen fertilizer use, the equivalent of removing 200 million cars from the road.

Sound Agriculture, based in Emeryville, California, has developed an alternative to synthetic fertilizer for corn and soybeans that gives plants access to more soil nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as a breeding technique that accelerates plant development, Bayer said in an emailed statement.

Climate activists have been pushing for years to reduce fertilizer use or change the way it’s produced. Runoff from farms can enter rivers and streams and cause problems such as coastal dead zones, while nitrogen not absorbed by crops emits a heat-trapping gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Sound Agriculture’s platform increases corn yields by an average 7.5 bushels per acre and allows growers to reduce nitrogen fertilizer application by up to 50 pounds per acre, Bayer said. Its breeding technology speeds up plant trait development without using genetically modified organisms.

“We are focused on progressing breakthrough solutions that are grounded in biotech science to provide long-term answers to today’s food production challenges,” Jürgen Eckhardt, head of Bayer’s investment arm Leaps by Bayer, said in the statement.

Other investors in the funding round include Northpond Ventures and existing investors Syngenta AG’s investment unit, Cavallo Ventures, Fall Line Capital, and S2G Ventures, according to the statement.

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