Published in Breaking News

Native Traits taps $825K investment to target seed producers

BY Sunday, April 24, 2016 08:00pm

KALAMAZOO — A Southwest Michigan biosciences firm plans to use a recent investment to move its cold weather- and drought-resistant seed technology from the research phase into developing new markets.

Kalamazoo-based Native Traits Corp. raised nearly $825,000 toward a $1.25 million offering as of April 4, according to filings with federal securities regulators.

“We’re a small company, so this is a pretty serious step forward,” said President and CEO Dr. James Friedrich. “In some industries, product development means research, but it’s not that way for us. The product development that we’d be doing is taking the existing product and developing that market more. That would be the main thrust going forward for our capital raise.”

The company’s process takes naturally-occurring cold- and drought-tolerant traits found in historical varieties of corn and applies them to modern strains of high-yield corn without genetic modification, Friedrich said.

Native Traits plans to license its technology to the seed firms. The recent round of funding puts the company on track to target those potential customers at the annual American Seed Trade Meeting in December, Friedrich said.

“That’s where everyone comes to make deals and plans,” he said.

The company aims to schedule meetings at its demonstration plots in Indiana and Illinois with “all the usual suspects” of major seed producers prior to the event, Friedrich said.

Native Traits’ recent round of financing was led by Traverse City-based investment firm Northern Michigan Angels and Western Michigan University’s Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center (BRCC). Both organizations led a prior $250,000 Series A round of financing in late 2014, according to a previous MiBiz report.

As Native Traits wraps up the current fundraising round, the company’s board approved a subsequent $1.5 million Series B round of financing, set to begin in summer 2016, Friedrich said.

The Series B round of financing will help the company become cashflow positive by 2018, Friedrich said.

So far, the company’s investment in its technology has paid off, he added.

“We’re continuing to see more interest in the program,” Friedrich said. “Some of that interest comes from quite large companies (and) we’ve had inquiries from Europe, Israel (and) India, so our reach is pretty broad.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly named Holland-based Grand Angels as an investor in the recent round of investing for Native Traits. The correct firm was Northern Michigan Angels. The story has been updated to correct this error.

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