Mike Borg’s interest in traceability and an aha moment while discussing romaine lettuce recalls with a friend inspired a traceability solution that works independently of packaging, from seed to waste.
Prior to the inception of Index Biosystems, Mike Borg, founder and CEO, spent four years leading the development of rigorously regulated traceability systems for a leading medical cannabis producer. Shortly after a $3.5 billion acquisition, Borg pursued a new project; his interest in traceability led him to Ethereum’s DevCon IV in Prague during a time when the excitement around non-fungible tokens (NFT) was gaining traction.
Borg’s expertise in traceability and opportunity collided.
Index Biosystems is a bio-technology startup that has developed a new category of in-product, bio-based traceability technology, called BioTags. The company has shown massive growth since its inception in 2019.
“Existing traceability technologies trace packaging, while the supply-chain struggles with being effective managers of data. We needed a scalable BioTag technology that persists even if the chain of custody is broken or malicious actors interfere,” says Borg.
Borg further explains that “barcodes and radio-frequency identification systems (RFIDs) have been used to identify products throughout supply chains for decades; however, they aren’t effective for high-volume manufactured products like crop inputs or high-volume products like feed.”
Why? It’s impossible to put a barcoded sticker on every seed and you can’t put a sticker on liquid pesticides that are used to help grow seeds.
“Industry is in serious need of a scalable traceability solution that can be relied on as product changes hands, is transformed or co-mingled, and works independent of the package. This is the solution Index Biosystems offers,” says Borg.
BioTags are created using standard baker's yeast. This is the same kind of yeast that we use to make bread. BioTags can be easily applied in trace amounts, to any product at any point in the supply chain. Each BioTag is unique and is stored in Index's digital registry. Only trace amounts (less than parts per million) need to be included for detection. Verification can be completed within one hour.
The application of BioTags provides a secure tool for intellectual property protection, quality control, supply-chain transparency, validating sustainable/ethical sourcing claims and can also be used to identify sources of cross contamination.
“There are over 600,000 food-related illnesses annually,” says Borg. “Discrete rapid, traceability enabled by the BioTag means recall events, which currently take months, impacting both human health and industry, can be resolved within hours.”
Index Biosystems recently announced it completed one of the largest Canadian AgTech seed rounds. The startup closed its target of $1 million with an oversubscription of $1.5 million (USD) led by Vanedge Capital, with the participation of new strategic partner CBS Bio Platforms, and Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) mentors.
The raise will help Index commercialize its BioTag technology by enabling the company to expand its technical team, build out its R&D facility, expand its intellectual property portfolio and achieve regulatory access in key markets.
The company announced this milestone alongside its graduation from the CDL Program, where Index Biosystems was selected as the top startup in the agriculture stream.
“We are thrilled to announce these accomplishments,” says Borg. “They further validate Index as a pioneer and leader in this new product category initiated with BioTags — providing scalable product traceability, independent of packaging, that addresses anti-counterfeiting, food safety and certification.”
Index Biosystems turned to Innovate Niagara for support to help start and grow this highly innovative and scalable company. “The team at Innovate Niagara was there from the start,” says Borg. “They provided early industry and academic introductions that provided some early market-fit validation, and access to market research that would have been prohibitively expensive in our early days.”
“These accomplishments are a true testament to Mike’s drive and focus, and the strength of his team,” says Jeff Chesebrough, CEO at Innovate Niagara. “We are excited to continue supporting Index Biosystems as they work to crack the code on food traceability and make remarkable breakthroughs in food safety.”