Rhizocore Technologies produce locally-adapted mycorrhizal fungi pellets enhance tree planting success, and fit effortlessly into your planting process, ensuring that new saplings flourish, build resilience to drought, and overcome the mortality rates so often seen across the forestry industry.

Toby Parkes, Founder and CEO, Rhizocore Technologies logo

Toby Parkes, Founder and CEO of Rhizocore Technologies, has a Bsc in Biology and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Bath. During his PhD, Toby worked on developing an understanding of how plants communicate with microbes where he used this knowledge to develop a new technique for producing disease resistant plants. 

Toby also spent time as a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew working on the Millenium Seed Bank Project to develop cryopreservation and tissue culture techniques for storing and regenerating plant embryos.

Since completing his PhD Toby has been on a mission to translate his academic knowledge into applications that are biodiversity positive and carbon negative which has culminated in the launch of Rhizocore Technologies in 2021.

What led you to setting up Rhizocore?

I came into contact with Deep Science Ventures, one of the University of Edinburgh’s partners for the FAST Programme, as I was finishing my PhD in plant pathology. 

The programme paid me to spend a year looking at controlled environment agriculture and other areas within agritech to see where there was room for new ventures.

One of the concept companies I created was Rhizocore. We decided it was the most likely to seed and would also have the largest upside for the planet, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. We have been running with it ever since.

What real-world challenge do you want to address?

The end goal is making forestry generate more quickly, so that woodlands can be established faster and be more resilient to environmental stresses and changes. I knew that ectomycorrhizal fungi are natural fertilisers for trees. I started asking forestry and wooden regeneration organisations whether we were using these organisms. The answer was, largely, ‘no’. 

We spotted a gap in the market and decided that we'd come up with a system – our pellets, which are developed based on the needs of trees specific to their geographical locations - that would counteract the fact these fungi weren't being used in an organised way.

How are you defining success?

Success for us is in establishing ways to support woodlands, making sure that we are regenerating ecosystems at scale and sequestering as much carbon as we possibly can. That’s where we find success and impact in what we do.

What role has the University of Edinburgh, the FAST Programme, advisory support with the Scottish Enterprise SMART: SCOTLAND grant application and the Data-Driven Entrepreneurship programme played in supporting your entrepreneurial journey so far?

PhDs teach you how to solve problems. People generate start-up companies when somebody solves a problem that is commercially viable.

FAST gives PhD students, postdocs and young career researchers the space to properly analyse possibilities and consider the kind of companies they might generate with the support of a salary.

Crucially, DDE and University of Edinburgh have helped us alongside the FAST programme. We received investment from DDE’s Seed Fund and strategic business support when completing our recent, successful SMART: SCOTLAND grant application.

What is next for Rhizocore?

Next is scaling up the funding side of the business, so we can move from lab scale operations to larger ones. We won't get anywhere in terms of improving biodiversity and combating climate change unless we are producing and planting millions of pellets a year - so that’s what we're working towards.

Rhizocore Technologies logo

Rhizocore Technologies

Roslin Innovation Centre
University of Edinburgh
Easter Bush Campus
Midlothian, EH25 9RG