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Moroccan university and fertiliser giant commit $200m to fund agritech start-ups

Bidra Innovation Ventures has announced a $200 million commitment from Morocco's Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) and the OCP Group. The initiative will expand Bidra's investment scope to include innovations in energy, water, mining and agriculture. The commitment will be used to fund global, innovative agritech start-ups that tackle climate change. UM6P is a hub for education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship that works to build collaborations with universities around the world. The OCP Group provides plant nutrition solutions and says it is the “world's largest” producer of phosphate fertilisers. Hicham El Habti, president of UM6P and board chair of Bidra, said: “This fund will expand our investment in reducing the carbon footprint of the agriculture industry while tackling the challenges of food security, urbanisation and industrialisation. Supporting Bidra’s efforts is part of UM6P’s commitment to investing in sustainable agriculture and the training of a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders, and positioning Morocco and Africa at the forefront of research and technology.” Amar Singh, head of group at Bidra Innovation Ventures, commented: "UM6P recognises the role innovation must play to sustainably solve global challenges. Having OCP’s support is a tremendous advantage because now we can extend OCP’s regional know-how and distribution capacity to startups that are ready to scale.” Companies backed by Bidra benefit from the financial resources of UM6P and the OCP Group, as well as the organisations’ domain expertise and global footprint. Jaisimha Rao, founder and CEO of Niqo Robotics, a company backed by Bidra’s fund, added: “At Niqo Robotics, we are pioneering a sustainable revolution in agriculture through AI-powered agricultural robots. Our proprietary green-on-green spot spray robots use real-time AI-assisted computer vision to selectively spray chemicals on plants resulting in up to 60% chemical savings and limiting the environmental impact of excess chemical usage.” He continued: “With the support of Bidra, UM6P and OCP Group, we continue to develop our robotic technology to benefit farmers in emerging markets that currently rely on outdated methods and manual labour”. This latest round comes one year after Bidra launched a $50 million fund focused on agriculture, backed by the same investors. In October, AgroSpheres, a company developing the next generation of environmentally-friendly crop protection products, raised £22 million in a Series B funding round which included participation from Bidra.

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