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FMC Ventures launched to advance ag tech innovation

Announces first portfolio investment in soil analytics leader Trace Genomics.

FMC Corp. has launched FMC Ventures, a new venture capital arm for targeting strategic investments in startups and early-stage companies that are developing and applying emerging technologies in the agriculture industry.

FMC president and chief executive officer Mark Douglas said, "At FMC, we are investing in the future of agriculture. Through FMC Ventures, we are able to quickly identify, assess and invest in emerging, sustainable technologies that will complement our technology portfolio and deliver strong return on investment."

FMC Ventures evaluates emerging technologies of relevance to the agriculture industry and will invest in those that create unique competitive advantage for FMC. The agriculture industry's most pressing challenges are being addressed through advances in artificial intelligence (AI), genomics, robotics, precision agriculture, biopesticides, synthetic biology and other innovations. As progress in these disciplines converge, they will radically alter how crop inputs are developed, sold and applied. The new venture capital arm of FMC will initially focus investments in these advanced technology areas.

First portfolio investment

FMC Ventures said its first portfolio investment is in Trace Genomics Inc. With operations in Burlingame, Cal., and Ames, Iowa, the startup combines DNA sequencing with machine learning that not only explains how soil diseases emerge but also identifies beneficial microorganisms that can be developed into biological products that counter harmful pathogens. Trace Genomics' technology can identify bacteria, fungi, nematodes and pathogens as well as their interactions with each other and the plant. An in-depth analysis of microbial diversity and its impact on crops are critical data sets agronomists need to recommend the right biological products. 

"Trace Genomics' superior sequencing and analytical approach to managing soil data will complement the growth objectives for our biological portfolio," FMC Ventures managing director Amar Singh said. "Understanding the important role of soil biology and accurate prediction of disease risk in fields will be increasingly important as the adoption of sustainable, biological crop protection products continues to accelerate around the world. Soil tests on the market today are insufficient to answer all the right questions in detail. Trace Genomics technology changes that."

Trace Genomics was recently selected as one of the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers, which recognizes the world's most promising startups and scale-ups that are at the forefront of technological and business model innovation.

Trace Genomics CEO Dan Vradenburg said, "FMC has deep roots in the food production system worldwide. I know because I've worked with their products and technologies for over four decades. Having a global leader like FMC in our corner validates our investments to change how we nurture soil — our most important agricultural asset. To create a future where this planet can feed 10 billion people, we need to collaborate across the food and agriculture system. All stakeholders in agriculture — and, certainly, solution providers like FMC — want science-backed soil intelligence to unlock the full potential of our living soil. We look forward to collaborating with them as we expand agricultural practices and solutions to help improve farm productivity in a more sustainable manner and restore our living soil."

FMC will retain a minority equity stake in Trace Genomics. Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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