Omnivore, India’s leading agritech investor, today announced the launch of its OmniX Bio initiative to back early-stage agrifood life science start-ups. The programme will support Indian entrepreneurs who are working in agricultural biotechnology, novel farming systems, bioenergy and biomaterials, as well as innovative foods, including alternative protein.
Despite being the third most active start-up ecosystem in the world, India’s progress in agrifood life sciences has stalled over the past two decades. Innovations in synthetic biology, chemistry, and biotechnology are critical for the future of Indian agriculture and food systems, which will soon bear the full brunt of climate change. Agrifood life sciences can play a critical role in tackling both climate mitigation (reducing India’s GHG emissions) and climate adaptation (securing a future for India’s farmers), as well as other agricultural sustainability challenges.
OmniX Bio will provide venture funding, mentorship from global agrifood life sciences leaders, institutional partnerships, and business development support to access domestic and export sales channels. While all members of the Omnivore team will support OmniX Bio, a PhD life scientist will join the investment team in 2022 to oversee the initiative and help develop the agrifood life sciences ecosystem across India.
Omnivore also disclosed the first investment under the OmniX Bio initiative: BioPrime, which is developing biological crop inputs that enhance yields without harming the environment or the health of farmers and consumers. The BioPrime team has spent the past few years building SNIPR (Smart Nanomolecules Induced Physiological Response) and BIONEXUS. SNIPR is a discovery platform that identifies innate immunity or natural defence mechanisms in plants, curates unique traits, and delivers tailored crop input formulations. BIONEXUS is India’s largest trait modifying, plant-associated microbe collection. Changes in the diversity of microbiota can confer plants acquired traits like drought tolerance, disease resistance, and enhanced yields, to name a few.
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BioPrime was founded in 2016 by Dr. Renuka Diwan, Dr. Amit Shinde, and Dr. Shekhar Bhosle, who met while earning their doctorates from the University of Pune. Renuka has a PhD in Plant Sciences, has worked extensively on bioactives for over 13 years, and has a patent filed for large scale production of specific metabolites. Amit also holds a PhD in Plant Sciences, with over 10 years of experience in bioactives. As for Shekhar, he has a PhD in Botany and specialises in mycology and bioactive compounds from fungi. The first generation of BioPrime’s products are at an early commercialisation stage and the company is evaluating several pan-India distribution partnerships. The company also has several co-development partnerships with MNCs.
Renuka Diwan, Co-Founder and CEO of BioPrime, said, “At BioPrime we are focusing on discovering fundamental aspects of plant communication, identifying new biomolecules and new modes of modulating plant responses. SNIPR and BIONEXUS enable BioPrime to develop new biologicals and radically improve existing products at a fraction of cost and time. With Omnivore joining us in this journey we are confident of building BioPrime to be a global player in ag-biotech and achieve our goal of a world where good yield is not a gamble but an assurance.”
Mark Kahn, Managing Partner of Omnivore, said, “We are excited to launch OmniX Bio to help reboot the agrifood life sciences ecosystem in India. Technological advances in this space can effectively solve some of the toughest challenges in Indian agriculture. In BioPrime, we have a great example of an innovation designed to improve both human and planetary health. We hope to see more entrepreneurs like the BioPrime team step up to the challenge and help change the course of Indian agriculture for the better.”