BioLumic switches on the growing power of ultraviolet light for cannabis producers
Why Canopy Rivers is investing US$1.5 million in BioLumic
Growers around the world face mounting pressure to produce more cannabis. But increasing yield isn’t easy. Cannabis seed companies and farmers must confront escalating operational costs, climate variability, ongoing regulatory changes, and other vulnerabilities that could drastically undercut their profits. Plant science holds the key to helping growers address these risks in a sustainable way — and a company called BioLumic has already developed a proven solution.
The cannabis biotechnology space is ripe for investment. The seed treatment market is expected to be worth US$11.3 billion by 2022, with BioLumic’s segment — biological seed treatment — anticipating the fastest growth over the next five years.
After scouring the world for brilliant plant science companies, Canopy Rivers is de-‘lighted’ to welcome New Zealand-based BioLumic to its portfolio with an investment of US$1.5 million. Its technology unlocks the power of ultraviolet (UV) light to significantly improve plant growth, disease resistance, and yield.
Canopy Rivers joined BioLumic’s Series A financing round with leading ag-tech investors, including the Radicle Growth acceleration fund and Rabobank’s Food & Agri Innovation Fund. Leading the round is BioLumic’s largest shareholder, Finistere Ventures, supported by industry leaders like Bayer and Nutrien, works closely with its extensive network in the ag and food space to help commercialize innovations at a global scale. BioLumic also has satellite offices in Bayer’s Sacramento facility. Canopy Rivers is dedicated to supporting strategic technology players in the legal cannabis value chain and BioLumic is a category leader, with buy-in from major ag-tech companies.
Illuminating the benefits for cannabis growers
Having already demonstrated positive results for crops such as lettuce, strawberries, and soy, BioLumic’s UV treatments could have dramatic implications for cannabis. Through a process called photomorphogenesis, BioLumic develops UV-B light recipes to trigger and eventually express desirable agricultural traits at the early stages of crop growth. The treatments are short-term, delivering long-term benefits throughout a plant’s life.
“UV-B treatments put our growers at an advantage because they can develop crops with tolerances at seed and seedling stages,” says Mary Dimou, Canopy Rivers’ Director, Business Development. “This can lead to downstream products and revenues for existing cultivators in our portfolio and upstream benefits for Canopy Growth. BioLumic’s unique light recipes will highly differentiate our companies from competitors with very little effect to their current operations.”
A cut above the competition
BioLumic’s technology has a razor-sharp competitive edge. The company has created a strong base of intellectual property (IP) comprising engineering know-how, trade secrets, and patents surrounding lighting treatment.
“BioLumic represents one of Canopy Rivers’ first investments where the company owns the core IP. Managed by one of the world’s leading photobiologists/photophysiologists, BioLumic not only has IP surrounding lighting treatment, but with this financing, will enter a new era of treatment development and IP expansion, in the arena of varietal and molecular-mechanism specific lighting treatments that are highly defensible from both a patent and trade secret prospective,” continues Dimou.
BioLumic’s focus on UV-B treatments are what differentiates it from ‘grow-light’ LED competitors. These companies optimize the entire visible light spectrum to maximize yield, but treatments need to be applied throughout the plant’s growing cycle to produce results. BioLumic’s single-treatment solution enhances key agricultural traits early on that exist with the plant through maturity.
Other competitors use chemicals to protect crops from pests and disease. But this approach isn’t sustainable, as it can leave residue and pose toxicological risks. BioLumic’s treatments are light-based and environmentally-friendly, activating tolerance through a plant’s natural defences.
“Growers need more sustainable ways to meet global crop demands, and precision UV light treatments can safely activate important characteristics in seeds and seedlings that make them more productive as they mature,” adds BioLumic CEO Warren Bebb.
“Given our results with other flowering crops, medicinal cannabis is a natural fit for our technology. Canopy Rivers’ extensive network in the medicinal cannabis ecosystem will open a new, strategic market for BioLumic.”