Ag-tech upstart is armed to take on Monsanto

September 21, 2009: 7:05 AM ET

Cibus Global uses bioscience to enhance plant genes with a different approach than agribusiness giants.

Enhanced crops, without fear. Photo: Cibus

Enhanced crops, without fear. Photo: Cibus

Israeli crop-protection company Makhteshim-Agan is investing $37 million in San Diego ag-tech startup Cibus Global to spur the development of new strains of crops that will be resistant to various forms of disease, pests, and herbicides.

The investment, which will occur over five years and will eventually allow the Israeli company to acquire slightly more than 50% of the startup, provides a shot in the arm for the 8-year-old upstart whose grand ambitions could put it on a collision course with ag-tech giants like Dow Chemical (DOW), Monsanto (MON), and Syngenta (SYT).

Cibus's primary asset is its so-called Rapid Trait Development System. Unlike the transgenic approach used by Monsanto, where a foreign gene is inserted into a plant's genome to confer, for example, immunity to an herbicide (à la Roundup-ready cotton and soybeans), Cibus's technology teases out such characteristics from the genome without inserting foreign material. More

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