THE UN recently raised the alarm for nature - reporting that 1 million species face extinction worldwide. Whilst we are just beginning to understand the unprecedented rates of biodiversity decline around the world, monitoring nature has traditionally been complex and costly. It has required trained experts in the field or lab to identify species by sight. This has left vast swathes of nature completely un-monitored and our impacts on this nature unknown.
DNA based monitoring changes all that. Dr Kat Bruce, the company’s founder explains, “forensic scientists have used DNA to identify individuals at crime scenes for years - now we can use our technology to identify the whole range of species, from bacteria to birds, present in the environment using small samples of soil or water taken by non-experts in the field and processed in our laboratories. Our technology can identify tiny fragments of DNA left behind by species and pin point exactly which species it is from.”
The company, whose four person management team includes three women with PhD’s, is based in Egham. They have already delivered projects across the world, from river samples in the Peruvian Amazon, which found nearly 700 animal species, to marine samples from Arctic waters. Increasingly these techniques are being taken up by infrastructure and extractive companies who recognise the value of the huge data sets which the company provides.
NatureMetrics plans to use the money raised to build their team of scientists in the UK and expand their international profile with labs in Latin America, Africa and South East Asia. The company will also extend the reach of their technology, moving from identifying lists of species to addressing issues such as measuring ecosystem health, restoration and regeneration and monitoring policy measures to deliver ‘net positive’ impacts for biodiversity.
Board member Katie Critchlow said: “Our products can address the big issues that have concerned business, government and investors for years - how can we monitor our impact on nature in a cost effective way”. She added “Increasingly we understand its not just the big stuff like mammals and birds, that we need to worry about. For example there is a completely unexplored world of biodiversity in soil which farmers increasingly understand mediates productivity, disease, carbon sequestration and more. Our products provide big data on this unknown world”.
The round was lead by Green Angel Syndicate (GAS), the UKs only angel syndicate fully dedicated to sustainable investment in the UK. Simon Acland, the company’s Chairman and a founder of GAS said “We’re delighted to support NatureMetrics, a rare business which has achieved commercial profitability and have met all their growth targets at the same time as having an increasingly positive impact on biodiversity around the world - because that which is measured, improves”.