University of Nottingham
  • Print

Building a company in just four months

Currently completing PhDs at the University of Liverpool, myself (Ross Mulhall), Jack Fitzpatrick, Rebecca Bennett and Lewis Fisher participated in the YES19 plant, microbial and environment workshop hosted by Syngenta at their Jealott's Hill International Research Centre. Thanks to Syngenta hosting, we were able to network at the workshop and make valuable connections that helped to strengthen our team.

The workshop gave us exposure to the real-world business development that entrepreneurs encounter, from managing finances and attracting investors, to legislation designed to protect the innovations.

Our team progressed to the final which took place at The Royal Society and won the prize for “Best consideration of IP strategy” sponsored by Potter Clarkson.

Left to right: Jack Fitzpatrick, Ross Mulhall, Rebecca Bennett and Lewis Fisher
Left to right: Jack Fitzpatrick, Ross Mulhall, Rebecca Bennett and Lewis Fisher

What happened when we took a real idea to the YES competition

We truly believed in our idea outside of YES, so much so that we were drafting a patent application whilst simultaneously taking part in the competition. This patent was to ensure that when we pitched our concept, we fully owned the intellectual property rights.

Our technology is based around using crop root-associated plant growth promoting bacteria that have been genetically engineered to increase water retention in the soil. The goal is to help farmers reduce irrigated water consumption so they can increase profits from crop production, whilst also saving the planet. Currently, over 70% of global water consumption comes from agricultural demand, and this is expected to rise by 19% by 2050.

After completing the competition, our protected invention was set up as a company – CroBio. From the end of 2019, the company has been growing fast and the knowledge gained based on the expertise from the YES19 competition has been invaluable.

Wheat field CroBio - increasing agricultural water retention in soil

The future looks exciting

Setting up a company in just four months has not been easy. However, we are now in final stage discussions with both venture capitalists and private investors that are willing to provide pre-seed funding.

As our invention is based on synthetic biology within agriculture, we are currently in discussions with the United States Environmental Protection Agency as this will be our target market.

In the near future, we plan to complete the genetic engineering of the root-associated bacteria. This will then enable greenhouse trials to be undertaken, and then progress on to controlled field trials in the US.

Collaborations are key

Collaborations are key to growing a business, and through the help of some amazing companies we have developed strong relationships to help us expand.

We’d like to thank everyone who has helped us so far and also to thank Tracey Hassall-Jones and Dr Hannah Noke, who not only supported us throughout the competition, but have continued to do so to help establish our company.

CroBio Syngenta

Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

  • Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Nottingham University Business School
  • Jubilee Campus
  • Nottingham, NG8 1BB