Stronger Bees, Better Crops, and Upcycled Fertilizer: An Agtech Panel with Beeflow, Traitomic, and Dr. Josh Silverman

Graphic shows images of Po Bronson, Josh Silverman, Toni Wendt, and Matias Viel with SOSV Climate Summit logo
Graphic shows images of Po Bronson,  Josh Silverman, Toni Wendt, and Matias Viel with SOSV Climate Summit logo

Farming, the world’s oldest industry, is both a cause and victim of climate change. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 31% of CO2 equivalent emissions come from the agri-food system. At the same time, climate change threatens to reduce crop yields and increase the risk of crop failure by, among other things, intensifying heat and drought and decimating pollinators like bees.  

New agricultural technology (agtech) could reduce emissions and enable us to produce more and better food, even in a warming world. Towards that end, VCs invested a record $4.9 billion into 440 agtech startups in 2021. But what makes an agtech company a climate tech company, and what doesn’t? Are farmers prepared to trust and partner with tech startups?

The SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Oct. 25-26, 2022) presented a panel of three agtech innovators addressing different dimensions of climate change. Check out the session below or read more about the panel and its participants below.

Matias Viel is founder and CEO of Beeflow, which creates and manages pollination programs that increase crop yields by up to 60%. By rearing stronger and smarter bees, Beeflow could protect populations against climate change, optimize agricultural land use, and minimize use of pesticides, a significant source of emissions. Beeflow is a graduate of SOSV’s IndieBio startup program and has raised $11.3M to date from investors including Ospraie Ag Science and Grid Exponential.

Toni Wendt is Head of Technology Development and Operations at Traitomic, a Carlsberg Group subsidiary that uses molecular genetics to develop beneficial traits in crops—like higher nutritional value and resistance to hot, dry weather. Traitomic was born at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory (CRL), which researches all things related to brewing, including crops. The team uses a non-GMO breeding method called FIND-IT, co-invented by Toni, to rapidly identify useful crop variants and breed them into new varieties.  

Dr. Josh Silverman is an in methane conversion (think cow poop to fertilizer) and currently working on a stealth startup focused.. Livestock accounts for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while production of ammonia—mainly for fertilizers—is responsible for 1.8% of CO2 emissions. Linking these challenges together may be the key to solving both.

The panel will be moderated by SOSV General Partner Po Bronson, Managing Director of IndieBio. He is an award-winning science journalist and author of seven best-selling books, most recently Decoding the World: A Roadmap for the Questioner, which focuses on the synbio revolution.  

Will agtech make a difference for climate change mitigation and adaptation? 

Also, be sure to check out other ag-related panels covering precision fermentation, vertical farming, and plant-based dairy

Matias Viel is an award-winning innovator and entrepreneur working to build a food system more in harmony with nature. He is the founder and CEO of Beeflow, a biotech company that helps farmers improve the impact of pollination and improve the health of bees through proprietary technologies and advanced scientific knowledge so that farmers can produce a bigger crop without needing additional inputs. He was awarded the 2018 MIT Innovators under 35 award.

Toni Wendt is a passionate trait developer with a PhD in crop genetics and over 10 years’ experience in genetic crop improvement. During his time at the renowned Carlsberg Research Laboratory, Toni co-invented Carlsberg’s non-GM trait development technology ‘FIND-IT’ and co-founded the Carlsberg venture Traitomic. Today Toni is supporting Traitomic’s journey to utilize advanced genetic screens to provide more diverse, nutritious, and sustainable food for the future.

Dr. Silverman has over 20 years of successful entrepreneur experience in new biotechnology research, development and commercialization and is a world leader in methane conversion technologies. He has been involved in raising over $300M in equity financing over his various companies, resulting in over $1.7B of cumulative exit value to date. 

Po Bronson is passionate about reconceptualizing complex challenges into more elegant forms, to broaden understanding and highlight priorities. He’s been at IndieBio SF since 2018. Po is a longtime science journalist honored with nine national awards, and author of seven bestselling books that are available in 28 languages worldwide. His work has been cited in 185 academic journals and 503 books. Most recently, Po is the author of Decoding the World: A Roadmap for the Questioner.