The Amsterdam-based cooperative joined existing shareholders Seaya Ventures, Viking Global Investors, JME Ventures and tech investor Prosus in completing a $15mn Series B funding round for Biome Makers, a provider of high-tech soil biology analysis based in the US and Spain.
"The fact that Biome Makers focus on the health of our soil was the main unique selling point for us,” Rogier Pieterse, managing director of Pymwymic, told Impact Investor. Improving crop health “starts with better insights” into our soil, said Pieterse.
The Biome technology, which is used by farmers, agricultural input manufacturers and research institutions in more than 35 countries, gives growers a better insight into soil health, allowing them to boost food production.
This is much needed, because in the last four decades about one-third of the world’s arable soil has been lost due to conventional farming methods.
Biome’s patented technology integrating DNA sequencing and ecological computer technologies “really gets to the heart of a lot of the problems we face,” said Pieterse.
‘Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is Community’
Pymwymic, which stands for "Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is Community", was founded in 1994 and became an impact investing cooperative in 2017.
It now consists of more than 100 individuals, families and entrepreneurs, which invest through Sustainable Development Goals-focused sub funds.
Joined by Dutch institutional investors Van Lanschot Kempen and a.s.r., Pymwymic launched the Healthy Ecosystems Impact Fund I in 2017.
This fund consists of nine portfolio companies, all of which are focused on building solutions to preserve and restore our ecosystems. They include Fairphone, the maker of the world’s first ethical smartphone, additive-free baby food maker Yooji and Trapview, which manufactures an automated pest monitoring system.
This spring, Pymwymic launched the Healthy Food Systems Impact Fund II, a venture capital fund for companies working on innovative technologies that have the potential to transform our food system.
The fund is aiming to invest €60mn in up to 14 companies in the next five years. That’s twice the amount invested in Pymwymic's Healthy Ecosystems Impact Fund I, which closed earlier this year.
“We are really looking for companies that create a positive impact with their innovation,” said Pieterse, when asked about the investment criteria for the new fund. “We are not necessarily looking for companies that reduce a negative impact. There is a real difference between those two.”
Potential portfolio companies should also have a “proof of concept,” with a minimum of €500,000 in commercial turnover, and focused mainly on Europe, Pieterse said.
Pieterse called the launch of Pymwymic’s Healthy Food Systems Fund, with its focus on food and agriculture, “a logical successor” to the first fund, which had a wider remit.
“During the term of the first fund we became increasingly aware that the food system is very multidimensional, and actually touches on all the SDGs,” said Pieterse.
In the start-up and scale-up market for food especially “there isn’t a lot of funding available for companies with turnover of around €500,000 to €1mn,” said Pieterse. “After that, when it gets bigger, there is a lot more money available. So that's one thing we can play a catalysing role in.”
Pymwymic also plays a role in helping the leadership teams of food and agriculture companies develop their own impact strategy.
“We don’t just focus on financial returns, but we specifically look at how companies can embed the impact strategy in their governance,” said Pieterse, adding Pymwymic’s vast knowledge in this field makes it a wanted board member.
Bayer Crop Science
Biome Makers, which recently announced the first AI virtual assistant for sustainable farming in partnership with Bayer Crop Science, said the investment by Pymwymic and its existing shareholders will “accelerate” its goal to become an industry standard in measuring soil health.
“We are on a mission to restore the health and fertility of soil and develop a more sustainable and respectful way to do agriculture,” Adrian Ferrero, co-founder and CEO of Biome Maker said, in a joint press release.