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Sunday, March 3, 2024

RTP-based AgBiome warns it may lay off entire staff of 123

AgBiome, an agriculture biotechnology company based in Research Triangle Park, has told the N.C. Department of Commerce that it may lay off all of its 123 employees, including its co-chief executive officers.

The workers would be terminated on Dec. 15. “We anticipate that these changes, when finalized, will be permanent,” said AgBiome human resources representative Elizabeth Claypoole in a letter to state officials.

Claypoole added that the timing may change.

An AgBiome spokeswoman provided a statement saying that the company will “continue to produce, market, sell, and support our products for the foreseeable future” and that “our business is doing better than it ever has.”

The statement, continued, by stating, “Unfortunately, we needed to raise capital in an extremely challenging VC and private equity market. Many excellent companies, including AgBiome, are struggling to raise capital. We are continuing ongoing discussions with potential partners and investors that would push forward the company’s products, platform, and science.”

The letter to the state said the layoffs would include eight microbiologists, four entomologists and four plant disease scientists. Eight sales staff would also be cut.

AgBiome is backed by investors such as ARCH Venture Partners, Leaps by Bayer, NovoZymes, Syngenta Ventures, Blue Horizon, Novalis LifeSciences, Polaris Partners and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The company raised $116 million in September 2021 and has raised more than $250 million during its 11-year existence.

AgBiome has built a database to house over 100,000 microbes, and every genome in every microbe was sequenced into hundreds of strains. The company randomly selects strains and looks for the best family of strains with a certain activity, like preventing fungus on strawberries, and creates the product.

AgBiome’s first fungicide product, Howler, works on more than 300 crop-disease combinations.

Due to its safer formula, Howler can be used as the last spray in the program, and its differentiator is a shorter re-entry period — farmers can spray in the morning and be able to go back out in the field in the afternoon.

Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at croush@businessnc.com.

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