Sydney agtech startup Lleaf has raised $3.5 million in a bridging round for its light-emitting plastics for indoor agriculture.
The round was led by Danish investment firms ALFA Ventures and 2 Degrees, with additional support from The University of New South Wales and deep tech hub Cicada Innovations, where Lleaf is based.
2 Degrees is the climate-focused private investment vehicle of Mikkel Bülow-Lehnsby, co-founder and chair of NREP, a leading European urban development company.
Industrial chemists Dr Alexander Soeriyadi and Dr Alexander Falber founded Lleaf at the University of NSW in 2016, spending the next five years developing a series of patented light absorbing and emitting plastics that improve the quality of both sunlight and artificial light for hothouse and indoor-grown plants, delivering an increase in crop yields by an average of around 20%.
The luminescent dyes used in the plastic roof of hothouses absorb light from one colour and emit it in another. That light spectrum can be tailored for specific applications such as increasing photosynthesis or simulating seasonal change for flowering and fruiting.
Lleaf – the name is an acronym of luminescent light emitting agricultural film – shipped its first product in February this year and had sold out by June, raising funds now ahead of plans for a Series A in October.
The fresh capital is partly thanks to a New Scientist article on Lleaf published earlier this year that caught the attention of the two climate-focused Danish investment entities.
Lleaf commercialisation director Chris Wilkins said it was easy to see the strategic value in opening a bridge round to the Danes so the startup could focus on accelerating sales and developing new products.
“It was clear from the first conversations that we were on the same page, they understood the technology on a scientific level and shared our vision for its potential to significantly increase food production, sustainably,” he said.
“The Danish have long been leaders in renewable and sustainable technology, so it’s not a great surprise they are actively supporting the green solutions of tomorrow. Beyond cash, ALFA Ventures and 2 Degrees bring a depth of experience innovating in the built environment.
“Cicada Innovations is a pillar of the Australian startup ecosystem. They have been instrumental in incubating our business, and UNSW is well known for their leadership in fostering entrepreneurship in academia – spinning out some of Australia’s best startups. It’s really great to have had their support from day one and into the future.”
Copenhagen-based Clive Eley from 2 Degrees said: “Lleaf’s technology has immense sustainability potential as it allows for more efficient utilisation of agricultural land, thereby reducing overall human impact on the environment”
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