Biological Crop Protection Attracting Interest
There has been a flurry of excitement surrounding biological crop protection over the last few years, according to Spencer Maughan and Kieran Furlong on AgFunderNews.com. Chemical pesticides are under increasing scrutiny from consumers and regulators, concerned about stress upon the environment and residuals in the food chain. Biopesticides can provide an alternative or supplement to these traditional chemical pesticides, as well as new modes of action to tackle increasingly resistant pests.
Early, high-profile venture capital exits such as AgraQuest, Becker-Underwood and Pasteuria, which returned hundreds of millions of dollars to investors, attracted the attention of entrepreneurs and investors, as well as the other large agrochemical companies.
So what is supporting these push-and-pull factors towards biologicals? Real advances in biological sciences. To name just a few: decreasing costs in the genetic sequencing of plant and soil microbiomes; advances in cost-effective, industrial-scale fermentation processes; and the emergence of novel gene-editing and RNAi technologies.
This has led to some very high profile start-ups — AgBiome, Benson Hill Biosystems, and Indigo, to name a few — raising large capital rounds from investors who anticipate similar high-value exits to those mentioned above. Yet when discussing biologicals with farmers, crop protection vendors, and industry veterans, skepticism still exists. The lack of major exits in the last two years certainly does not help.
So, are “biologicals” really the future of crop protection? We certainly think so.