Agri-tech start-up Glaia lands £1 million investment from Green Angel Syndicate

Dr Imke Sittel and Dr. David Benito of Glaia

Bristol-based agri-tech start-up Glaia has secured £1 million of investment from Green Angel Syndicate, the UK’s largest network of specialist investors fighting climate change.

Glaia, which was founded in 2019 by two former University of Bristol scientists, Dr David Benito and Dr Imke Sittel, has discovered how to supercharge crop growth without increasing greenhouse gases, using ground-breaking, carbon-based technology that reduces farming’s climate footprint.

The investment will allow the company to commercialise their game-changing carbon-based technology, the ‘sugar dots’, which reduces emissions from crops by 30 per cent when applied to the plants.

The former scientists – whose idea recently featured on the BBC series 39 Ways to Save the Planet – have developed a way to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis: the energy-producing process by which plants use carbon dioxide, water, and energy from the sun to fuel their growth.

“You might think billions of years of evolution had fine-tuned photosynthesis to the max – but in fact, usually less than one per cent of the sun’s rays absorbed by plants are turned into biomass,” said Glaia CSO Imke Sittel.

Applying Glaia’s new-generation biostimulants to the roots or leaves gives photosynthesis a much-needed boost, she added, increasing harvests by as much as 40 per cent without increasing fertilisers or other climate unfriendly inputs.

The technology could revolutionise the production of staple and horticultural crops, but for now the team is focusing on hydroponic tomatoes and strawberries, where they estimate the added value could initially result in a fivefold return on investment for the growers.

The objective is to expand into the EU (Netherlands and Germany as a priority with pilot customers) within two years, and North America within three years. Globally, the market value of their product could be worth in excess of $1.9 billion for their first targeted crops.

The £1 million investment has come from Green Angel Syndicate and Yield Lab Europe and will allow Glaia to scale-up production and prepare their first product for market entry, including pilot customer projects.

Cam Ross, CEO of Green Angel Syndicate, said: “It was immediately apparent that the ground-breaking sugar dot technology could transform the CO2 influence of farming. We were impressed by the expertise and dedication of the Glaia team and believe they will have a great impact in reducing agriculture’s carbon intensity.”

John Carrigan of Yield Lab Europe said the organisation was pleased to invest in Glaia and in its truly innovative technology:

“With its technology, Glaia tackles not only the increasing food demand but also one major contributor to climate change: crop production.”

“Global food demand is rising, while the amount of arable land available is decreasing. Tackling these two problems at the same time, by increasing the productivity of crops through photosynthesis, could be a game-changer”.

David Benito said: “We are thrilled with this new, exciting stage for Glaia. Many climate-friendly technologies tackle the issue of emissions directly – but we decided to approach the problem from the other direction. What if we could improve current productivity without increasing the carbon footprint?

“Glaia is very happy to have GAS, the UK’s largest angel syndicate specialising in the fight against climate change and the Yield Lab Europe, one of the most active VC funds in the agri-tech sector as the new investors joining forces with SHAKE Climate Change to deliver a technology with the potential of causing a significant impact in crop production and the fight against climate change.”

Green Angel Syndicate (GAS) is the UK’s largest network of specialist investors fighting climate change. GAS has over 340 members and has invested in 30 start-ups and early-stage companies across the following sectors: energy, transport, buildings, agriculture, recycling and environment.

Yield Lab Europe is the leading funder of early-stage agri-food and agri-tech companies that revolutionise agriculture and food systems seeking to sustainably feed the world.