VC’s swarm to this agtech firm that plans to make quantum dots…ubiquitous

On Wednesday, Los Alamos startup UbiQD (Ubiquitous Quantum Dots), a leading developer of the advanced material known as quantum dots for light control in agriculture and energy, announced that it has closed a $7 million venture capital funding round. The round was co-led by “frontier technology” venture capital firm Scout Ventures and global investment network Keiretsu Forum (one of the most active VC’s in the U.S. market), with participation from multiple other funds, including Plug and Play Ventures, Santa Fe, New Mexico private equity firm Sun Mountain Capital, Salt Lake City’s Epic Ventures, and cannabis-focused VC firm Arcview Collective Fund.

The exuberant interest around this Series A round begs the question, what is a “quantum dot?”

Glad you asked

These are synthetic, semiconducting nanoparticles (i.e., tiny things) that can manipulate color and light when embedded into a physical surface (like an artificial light source).

UbiQD is built around a proprietary, patent-protected formulation of quantum dots that convert “underutilized” colors of light from the sun (like blue and UV), to colors (like orange) that are more photosynthetically active (or nourishing) to plants. The goal is to enhance crop yields.

Per UbiQD, while there are multiple industrial applications for quantum dot technology, its primary use cases are in controlled environment agriculture (e.g. vertical farms and greenhouses, where quantum dot technology is installed in glass and pliable films). and for energy production in urban environments (where quantum dots are installed in solar windows to generate clean solar energy). UbiQD is a market leader in quantum dot technology for both the agtech and sustainable energy verticals.

“Light recipes”

Capital raised in the Series A round will help UbiQD scale the rollout of its first commercial product, UbiGro, a synthetic light layer that helps plants use sunlight more optimally, and without relying on electricity. UbiQD also plans to develop a more advance of UbiGro products, such as proprietary “light recipes” that are specifically tailored to certain crops and geographies.

According to the company, several pilot customers and technology institutions (according to the company, it is licensing technology developed at research institutions including the Los Alamos National Laboratory and MIT) have tested UbiGro and repeatedly validated its ability to achieve 10–20 percent higher yields with faster cycle times, reduced waste, and improved crop quality. All of the above lead to increased cost savings, increased revenue, and higher margins for farmers.

UbiGro’s deployment comes at a time when pandemic-related pressures, population growth, and climate change are putting stress on global food supply chains. Combined with those stressors, increased demand for fresh, organic produce is driving the growth of the global commercial greenhouse-grown crop industry, which UbiGro estimates to be worth more than $250 billion a year.

Earlier this year, UbiQD partnered with Solvay, the nearly 160-year-old Belgian company that dominates the $3 billion global market for greenhouse cover, to develop next-generation luminescent greenhouse technology. The partnership allows crop growers to achieve what is called “spectrum optimization” inside a greenhouse without having to change the design, electricity infrastructure or add lighting to an existing structure.

Let’s Gro

“UbiQD has really pioneered a new field of materials innovation. Using quantum dots for sunlight manipulation has the potential to transform some of the largest industries on the planet and produce significant profits while doing so,” said Brad Harrison, Managing Partner of Scout Ventures. “As a firm dedicated to supporting transformative technologies that can make the world a better, safer place, Scout Ventures was proud to invest in UbiQD’s next phase of growth.”

“We’re extremely excited to be working with a cohort of investors who share our passion for advanced materials and our vision for creating positive environmental impact,” said UbiQD Founder and CEO Hunter McDaniel, upon announcing the Series A. “The greenhouse industry is growing at an incredible pace, particularly in North America; we’re grateful to be able to draw on the combined expertise of our investors to capitalize on that market, expand our customer base, and enable new product offerings as we head into a new year.”

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