Meet the Activator is a regular series designed to highlight the incredible and diverse operations and entrepreneurs activating capital for regeneration across the agriculture and food system.
Company Name: Ascribe
Description of Company: Ascribe discovers and develops natural crop protection products that help farmers combat plant diseases and increase yields without harming the environment or human health. The company is headquartered in Ithaca, NY and based on discoveries from the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University.
Fundraising Rounds Closed: $2.4M Seed Round plus significant grant funding from NSF and NIH SBIR/STTR programs
Gabriel Wilmoth is a consultant, executive, and investor focused on agtech and sustainability, who currently serves as COO of Ascribe and on the board of Regrow Ag. Previously, Gabriel was COO of the digital ag firm Growers, which was acquired in 2020. Prior to Growers, he was a Director at Syngenta Ventures, where he made early investments in start-ups like Blue River Technology, GreenLight Bio, and Sound Ag. Here Gabriel shares where Ascribe is today, how the company got here, and where they are headed next.
What problem are you solving for?
Ascribe makes more effective and more affordable biological crop protection products. Farmers today face a choice between toxic-but-effective chemical products or expensive-and-less reliable biological products. Ascribe solves this by developing natural products that are as effective as conventional chemistry, without the downsides.
How do you characterize the impact of your work?
We foresee Ascribe’s products being used on millions of acres, where we can help raise yields while reducing the environmental impact.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced on your investment journey?
Our management team has experience in fund raising, and we’ve been pleased with the investment journey so far. But one interesting observations is how you can get the exact opposite advice from different VCs. This came up repeatedly for Ascribe because we have both a lead product and a discovery platform. We found that almost 50% of the VCs that we pitched thought we should prioritize resources on the lead product, while the other 50% of VCs were adamant that we should invest heavily in the platform.
What are your next steps as an organization?
On our roadmap, we prioritize answering 3 questions. Do our products work in the field? We want to match or exceed than the current best-in-class products. Can we produce our products cost-effectively? We know that cost is a major barrier for adoption for many segments of the market. Finally, do our products have the safety profile to pass all the regulatory requirements?
What’s the most important lesson you have learned on your journey so far?
It’s impossible to pick just one lesson, but if you start with an awesome product, everything else is a little bit easier.
Learn more about Ascribe here.
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