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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

PowerPollen Raises $13M for Pollination on Demand Tech for Corn, Wheat, and Rice

Iowa-based PowerPollen announced it has closed on $13 million raised through a Series B that included new investor Ag Ventures Alliance, and a cohort of return investors that included Iowa Corn Growers Association.

For such a critical part of crop success, pollination can be seriously inefficient due to the short reproductive window for commodity crops such as corn, wheat, and rice - the three most valuable crops in the world. This constraint limits genetic diversity and the flexibility of in-season decision-making needed for optimal yields.

Launched by co-founders Todd Krone and Jason Cope in 2015, PowerPollen has developed a scalable technology to successfully collect, preserve, and apply pollen at commercial scale on-demand, creating the ability to extend the lifespan of pollen for the first time.

In 2018 the company successfully proved the viability of its process, and began scaling field operations using bespoke machinery on the fields of 22 customers at eight different seed production centers across the states of Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.

Since its invention, PowerPollen’s technology has increased yields by as much as 44 percent on commercial corn seed production acres and decreased environmental variation to improve risk management, while also improving labor and land utilization and reducing seed discard rates.

The company also has expanded its operations beyond Iowa, into Texas and Puerto Rico. Last year the corn research platform in Puerto Rico became fully operational year-round basis, driving in-field trials outside of the U.S. Midwest.

“PowerPollen has achieved significant milestones in a short period as the impact of its novel technology is readily recognized by global agribusinesses,” said Brian Jones, chief operating officer, Iowa Corn Growers Association.

“We see tremendous growth and market potential in corn for this novel pollination technology and believe it enables the delivery of new and innovative products to corn farmers all while providing significant contributions to achieving global food security and sustainability goals.”

In April of this year PowerPollen forged a strategic partnership with Corteva Agriscience to expand the usage of PowerPollen’s on-demand pollination technology to increase seed yield, purity, and quality of Corteva’s commercial corn seed production.

“Over several decades, scientific advancements have improved agricultural productivity, but the challenges associated with pollination have remained largely unsolved,” said Neal Gutterson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Corteva Agriscience.

“Based on in-field testing, we believe PowerPollen’s technology will further enable us to produce high-quality seed for our farmers and improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of modern farming practices.”

Three months later, in July, PowerPollen partnered with BASF on a research collaboration to apply PowerPollen’s technology and prescriptive pollination algorithms in corn to improve cross-pollination and to enhance BASF’s hybrid wheat program.

“Hybrid wheat demonstrates BASF’s commitment to transforming wheat for long-term success through a globally-driven, advanced breeding platform adapted to local needs and supported by a continuous pipeline of innovation,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, director of Global Wheat Crop Strategy, BASF.

“This collaboration will leverage PowerPollen’s unique expertise in solving pollen preservation and application in corn to improve hybrid wheat seed production.”

“Ag tech innovation and adoption remain critical to helping farmers increase productivity and profitability in a sustainable way,” said Dr. Todd Krone, co-founder and CEO of PowerPollen.

“For the first time in history, we have the potential to extend the lifespan of pollen at a commercial scale, and then apply it on-demand in three of the world’s most valuable crops. This innovation is key to unlocking yield and improving quality.”

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