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OlsAro Bags €2.5M to Develop Climate-Resilient Wheat Varieties

Courtesy of OlsAro - Team
Courtesy of OlsAro - Team

Paulig's venture arm, PINC, has strategically invested in Swedish agtech startup OlsAro. The company specializes in developing wheat varieties that can thrive in harsh climate conditions such as salt, heat, and drought. This move is part of a broader effort to address the pressing global challenges of climate change on global food security.

The urgency of these efforts is underscored by the fact that due to factors like rising sea levels and flooding, there is an increased salinity in the soil across much of the world's cropland. This creates unsustainability in agricultural practices, with a significant impact observed in regions of Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa. Wheat, a staple food source globally, is particularly vulnerable to these changes, making the development of resilient agricultural varieties a priority.

Furthermore, wheat is one of the largest crops in the world and is a nutrient-rich staple food that is essential to the diet of billions of people worldwide. However, in recent years, wheat supply has been under severe threat due to various factors such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and tensions in the Middle East.

Technological Breakthroughs in Wheat Breeding

OlsAro has developed an AI platform that can speed up the development of wheat varieties three times faster than traditional methods. During their first application, a salt-tolerant wheat variety, they have shown a 52% yield increase. The technology is based on over a decade of research and a unique wheat collection with a high genetic diversity. This collection forms the basis for identifying traits that can help wheat withstand harsh climatic conditions, increase nitrogen efficiency, and potentially improve the nutritional qualities of wheat. This innovation represents a technological breakthrough and promises to transform unproductive saline lands into fertile cropland, thus potentially adding another cropping season for farmers.

“Our platform, enriched by a decade of research and a unique genetic diversity, empowers us to introduce wheat varieties designed to thrive under adverse conditions. This funding is a catalyst for us to broaden our technological capabilities and extend our impact on a global scale. It’s an exciting time for OlsAro, as we harness AI and plant biotechnology to forge a path towards sustainable food systems that can withstand the challenges ahead,” says OlsAro CTO Henrik Aronsson.

Initial Success and Future Plans

The efficacy of OlsAro's developments has been supported by initial testing in Bangladesh, where the new wheat variety has shown remarkable yield improvements. According to Marika King, Head of PINC, the results from these tests are highly encouraging.

“Their results are impressive”, says Marika King, Head of PINC.  “Food security matters to all of us, and the OlsAro team can speed up solutions for wheat in several areas with their platform, and also for other crops in the future. The combination of the long-term scientific experience in molecular biology and the modern ways of handling data and AI is a key strength at OlsAro and we are excited to see what the team can create going forward.”

Looking ahead, OlsAro focuses on enhancing wheat's resilience and nutritional content and will also explore the application of its technology to other crops. The company has established a commercial foothold in the Bangladesh market and is conducting field trials in several other countries including Pakistan, Kenya, Oman, and Nepal, with plans to expand into Australia and India next.

The Science Behind the Innovation

OlsAro's platform leverages more than a decade of research in molecular biology and a proprietary wheat collection that boasts a high level of genetic diversity. This repository enables the identification of specific traits that can be tailored to withstand harsh conditions, enhance nitrogen efficiency, and even improve nutritional profiles. "With our technology backed by 10 years of research, we’re now in a unique position to leverage advancements in AI and plant biotechnology, secure intellectual property, and make a real impact on global food security," explained Elén Faxö, CEO of OlsAro.

Funding and Future Prospects

The  €2.5 million seed funding round was co-led by Future Food Fund, with participation from AgFunder, Flora Ventures, and Mudcake. OlsAro's growing list of backers, including previous support from GU Ventures, Vasa Angels, and Öste Ventures, underscores the confidence in its potential to make substantial contributions to agriculture.

“OlsAro’s investors’ collective expertise, networks, and strategic insights will bolster OlsAro’s pioneering work towards global scalability and impact, says Jaap Strengers, Managing Partner at Future Food Fund. “This investment highlights our commitment to fostering solutions that support the transition into more resilient food systems globally. We are excited to join OlsAro on their journey, supporting their push towards agricultural innovation that’s set to redefine the resilience of crops worldwide.”

With this capital injection, OlsAro plans to accelerate its technological and commercial scaling efforts. The company's advancements in AI and plant biotechnology are poised to enhance global food security, making it a critical player in the ongoing effort to develop sustainable agricultural practices in the face of a changing climate.


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