Trace Genomics®, a San Francisco Bay area startup developing revolutionary, AI-enabled diagnostic tools for farmers to increase yields and reduce costs, has closed a $13 million Series A round.
Trace Genomics has launched the first scalable soil microbiome test to enable the early prediction of soil diseases, soil health and crop quality.
Every tablespoon of soil contains billions of microorganisms. These organisms interact with the roots of plants, playing a key role in providing them with nutrients but also in causing plant disease, ultimately impacting food production and quality.
Trace Genomics uses high-throughput DNA sequencing, artificial intelligence, and a growing database of known and previously unknowable microbial species living in agricultural soils to identify and profile the soil microbiome, interpreting key soil health and disease risk indicators for every soil sample.
By understanding how soil microbes affect crop production, Trace Genomics has designed the first microbiome test to deliver actionable insights to growers. These insights include how to achieve more efficient nutrient use, how to reduce input costs, how to reduce crop disease risk, and which seeds, rotations or biological agents will work best for their soils.
Trace Genomics’ tests can also effectively gauge soil health, carbon sequestration, and sustainable agricultural production.
Leading East Coast investor Stage 1 Ventures led the round. Additional investors participating in the round include Viking Global Investors AgFunder, and others.
“Trace Genomics has developed a highly scalable software and analytics platform to quantify soil productivity and offer actionable insights never before captured. It has the opportunity to transform how we measure sustainable and regenerative farm management practices,” says Joseph Pianelli, Stage 1 Ventures Operating Partner. “The founding team has demonstrated a passion for microbiome science and a determination to deliver value to the market.”
Trace Genomics was founded by Dr. Diane Wu and Dr. Poornima Parameswaran, who met as graduate students in Nobel Laureate Andrew Fire’s lab at Stanford University. Their complementary backgrounds span computational biology, genomics, data science, immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases.
“We’ve spent our careers working on genomics technology, watching it transform human health in a very significant way. We’re passionate about bringing that power to every farmer, using genomics and big data to help them make smarter decisions and materially change our approach to food production,” says Diane Wu, PhD, Trace Genomics’ CEO and Co-founder.
“People have been looking for ways to tackle global food security – and it’s right there, under their feet,” adds Poornima Parameswaran, PhD, Trace Genomics’ President and Co-founder. “Measuring the soil biome is the critical first step in optimizing the natural functions present in our soils today, so we can be more precise and economical in choosing seed, nutrients and other inputs. Our ability to sustainably utilize our soils today will put us on track to meeting our growing food demands sustainably.”
After just one year with commercially-available diagnostic tools, Trace Genomics is helping growers of over 70 high-value fruits and vegetables make crucial input and planting decisions, and have tested soil samples representing more than 150,000 acres.
Carl Casale, a Trace Genomics customer and former CEO of food and ingredients company CHS said:
“Precision agriculture lacks the ‘so what’. With the Trace report, we were able to see very clearly what was causing loss of productivity on our fields and what we needed to do about it. We saved over $100/acre by avoiding a fungicide we didn’t need and focusing on specific approaches to improve our soil health. We saw visible improvements to our yields the following season.”
Next year, with its ability to process more than thousand soil samples a week across geographies and soil types, Trace Genomics will expand to corn and soybean, with the potential to impact over 170 million acres in the US alone. Trace Genomics can identify the likelihood of crop diseases such as soybean sudden death syndrome, and can guide growers to decisions that lead to greater nutrient efficiency. Both of these benefits can increase overall profit for the farmer, a growing priority in recent years with deflated food commodity prices.
Investors in Trace see unbounded potential for the company to apply its technology across the food system and help facilitate more sustainable farming practices.
“Trace’s technology could play a significant role in helping food companies meet their stated climate goals, providing a way to quantify these efforts for the first time. The soil microbiome also plays a significant role in providing nutrients to the plant through its roots, and that influences the nutrition content of the food we produce and eat,” said Veery Maxwell, Director at Energy Innovation. It’s time we started paying attention to the dirt below our feet.”
This fundraising round brings Trace Genomics’ total capital raised to more than $19 million. Previous investors include Fall Line Capital and Refactor Capital.