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Glaia raises £1m for sugar-dot tech that increases photosynthesis

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Imke Sittel and David Benito, Glaia
Imke Sittel and David Benito, Glaia

A £1M investment has been raised by Glaia, which develops ‘sugar dot’ technology to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis that boosts production without the need for inorganic fertilisers.

Glaia was founded in 2019 by two former University of Bristol scientists, Dr. David Benito and Dr Imke Sittel, and was one of the finalists in the 2020 GROW Agri-Tech Business Plan competition.

The investment will allow the company to commercialise their game-changing carbon-based technology, the ‘sugar dots’, which reduces emissions from crops by 30% when applied to the plants.

“You might think billions of years of evolution had fine-tuned photosynthesis to the max – but in fact, usually less than 1% of the sun’s rays absorbed by plants are turned into biomass,” said Glaia CSO Imke Sittel.

Applying Glaia’s new-generation biostimulants to the roots or leaves gives photosynthesis a much-needed boost, she added, increasing harvests by as much as 40% without increasing fertilisers or other climate unfriendly inputs.

The technology could revolutionise the production of staple and horticultural crops, but for now the team is focusing on hydroponic tomatoes and strawberries, where they estimate the added value could initially result in a fivefold return on investment for the growers.

The objective is to expand into the EU (Netherlands and Germany as a priority with pilot customers) within two years, and North America within three years. Globally, the market value of their product could be worth in excess of $1.9 billion for their first targeted crops.

The £1M investment has come from Green Angel Syndicate, the UK’s largest network of specialist investors fighting climate change, and Yield Lab Europe and will allow Glaia to scale up production and prepare their first product for market entry, including pilot customer projects.

Cam Ross, CEO of Green Angel Syndicate, said: “It was immediately apparent that the ground-breaking sugar dot technology could transform the CO2 influence of farming. We were impressed by the expertise and dedication of the Glaia team and believe they will have a great impact in reducing agriculture’s carbon intensity.”