At a time when research has returned centre stage, it has become clear that it is not always in line with the profitability requirements set out by the business world. There are, of course, several examples of when investors are willing and able to wait a few years, or even longer, to see a return on their investment. But this approach remains rare (for the moment), especially when it challenges the well-established lobbies and multinationals. Nonetheless, this is an approach favoured by Mycophyto, a small start-up based in Sophia-Antipolis and founded in 2017 by Justine Lipuma (a doctor in microbiology) and Christine Poncet (INRA – the French National Institute for Agricultural Research).
What is the company’s aim?
In short, Mycophyto offers an alternative to pesticides and fertilisers and promotes crop diversity in a context of global warming, an increasing global population (and therefore its needs), and a reduction in arable land.
How does it achieve this?
Mycophyto (from the Greek words Mukês: fungus and Phyte: plant) aims to use the properties of mycorrhizal fungi to favour root development. Plant growth is therefore enhanced, improving yield without using more water thanks to a pooling of effective resources via these fungi.
The host plant therefore enters symbiosis with these “assistants” and better resists disruptive elements such as pollutants and pathogens. There are more than 250 species of mycorrhizal fungi, and these are not widely available on the market.
Initial confirmed research demonstrates the increased efficiency of these fungi in arid areas, in other words, exactly where the impact of climate change is the greatest.
Moreover, this is one of the company’s key drivers: growing its presence through research and local partnerships in order for the small team to progress to offering solutions adapted to all types of local agriculture.
And right now?
The €1.4 million in funds raised last year (2019) brought together several local players and was helped by the company’s success in the i-Lab innovation awards organised by the French Ministry of Higher Education Research and Innovation, in partnership with Bpifrance. Having been recognised as an innovative, deeptech (disruptive) company, Mycophyto can now step up its data collection and use AI to build predictive models and adapt each solution to specific needs. There is no doubt that new partnerships will be formed and a second wave of fund-raising is planned for the end of 2021.
In France (and elsewhere too), we are seeing an increase in Agribashing, which is often mistaken for the belittling of farmers who in turn are economically pushed further into the ground. Mycophyto’s products may well help provide real solutions that reconcile farming/farmers with the population, and in my view this is definitely a company which is doing well by doing good.
For further information:
In French: http://mycophyto.fr/
 According to a 2011 study by the French young farmers’ union, the reduction in arable land represented 26m2 per second, or 820km2/year, which corresponds to the surface area of Alsace over a 10 year period.