In today's fast-paced startup ecosystem, time is often the most precious resource. Tough Tech companies face an additional set of obstacles such as specialized infrastructure requirements and lengthy R&D cycles. For Robigo, an agtech startup specializing in microbial solutions for plant disease control, the road to commercial success is being dramatically shortened, thanks to their utilization of The Engine’s infrastructure. "The Engine's flexibility and support during Robigo's growth has given us more time and resources to reach critical milestones ahead of our Series A financing," says Andee Wallace, CEO & Co-Founder of Robigo. One such milestone includes field trials to demonstrate the efficacy of their microbial solutions in controlling plant diseases.
Robigo's limitations were initially tied to the capacity of their plant assay throughput. Wallace explains, "We've currently been limited in plant assay throughput, which is slowing down validation of our microbes' behavior in plants and subsequently the pace at which we can design-build-test-learn and iterate on our microbial product."
But thanks to the infrastructure provided by The Engine, Robigo is not only overcoming these limitations but thriving beyond them. Wallace points out that an expansion in their lab space allows them "to bring in 2 larger plant growth chambers, which will increase our plant assay throughput 2.3X over current capacity." This critical upscaling will dramatically expedite Robigo's product development and field trial testing slated for Spring 2024.
A unique attribute of The Engine's flexible space is how it allows for both R&D and testing under one roof. For agtech startups like Robigo, this is nothing short of a logistical godsend. Wallace elaborates, "Given the permitting requirements for moving our genetically engineered microbes and plant pathogens that we're working on treating from one location to another, it would be unfeasibly burdensome to establish two locations." By enabling Robigo to keep all its activities together, The Engine has effectively reduced the startup's regulatory burden, thereby helping it streamline operations and maintain focus on achieving milestones.
Apart from enhancing Robigo's R&D capabilities, The Engine has also aided them in achieving manufacturing milestones. Wallace cites, "As part of our product development, we've also been grateful to have space in The Engine to build out in-house R&D-scale manufacturing capabilities by setting up a benchtop bioreactor system and spray dryer for downstream processing." These facilities enable Robigo to further optimize microbial performance, thereby improving the quality and consistency of the product needed for field trials.
The future looks promising for Robigo, especially with plans to further expand their bench footprint. "Further expanding to 27-benches in late 2024 will enable us to set up a 10L bioreactor to scale our fermentation capacity to meet our field trial needs," Wallace reveals. This will set the stage for Robigo to scale the number of field trial locations and eventually seek commercial approval for their microbial solutions.
In the world of Tough Tech, where complexity and long R&D cycles are the norm, The Engine's infrastructure proves to be an invaluable asset for startups like Robigo. By providing the flexibility, space, and support needed for rigorous R&D and manufacturing, The Engine is not just a facility but a catalyst that transforms the trajectory of innovative companies towards faster and more efficient paths to success.