AFRICA – AgBiome, producer of high-quality crop protection solutions from microbial organisms, has received additional support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to extend its operations in sub-Saharan Africa.
The funding will enable AgBiome to proceed to phase 2 of its research aimed to develop novel, efficacious, safe and low-cost microbial pesticides for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan African countries.
The company’s research is focused on developing fungal control and nematicide for maize, sorghum, banana and yam. This project leverages on AgBiome’s scientific expertise, infrastructure, and previous success developing biological pesticides.
In phase 1 of the project, AgBiome successfully developed microbial screening assays against the target diseases i.e., Sorghum Anthracnose, Banana Black Sigatoka and Aflatoxin contamination in maize, root-knot nematode in yams.
The company also identified 100 microbial strains with confirmed activity against one or more of the target fungal diseases and 25 strains prioritized for further evaluation.
Further to that, AgBiome diagnosticated 20 nematicidal bacterial strains able to control the root knot nematodes (RKN) on-plant and three lead strains prioritized for further evaluation.
In phase 2 of this research, AgBiome will focus on the evaluation of the strains prioritized in the phase 1 of the project under appropriate field conditions and select microbes with the best efficacy.
“Upon completion of phase 2, AgBiome will provide production-ready lead and backup strains with proven efficacy to control a spectrum of fungal diseases and nematodes in the key sub-Saharan African crops.
“Key to achieving the phase 2 objectives is to optimize the strains to ensure their consistency in performance, ensure lower production costs to facilitate the scale up for their production,” said Dave Ingham, Pre-product Manager at AgBiome
In Africa, there are an estimated 33 million smallholder farms that contribute up to 70 percent of the food supply.
With greater investment in innovative and sustainable smallholder agriculture practices, many countries have the potential to increase food production and reduce poverty.
Replacing synthetic pesticides with biological alternatives protects the health of the farmers and reduces negative impact on the environment.
“AgBiome is proud of the outstanding scientific work our team has accomplished during the initial phase of this project. We’re pleased to have the continued support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reach our goal of providing effective crop protection solutions to farmers in Africa,” said Rodrigo Sarria, Head of Research & Chief Science Officer at AgBiome.
AgBiome research efforts will enable the company to offer sustainable solutions and tap into the multi-billion-dollar biopesticides market, which is driven by ban on chemical pesticides in the major countries attributed to the deteriorating soil conditions, extensive farm practices, and growing concern regarding residue levels in food products.
According to Markets and Market, the global biopesticides market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 14.7% from an estimated value of US$ 4.3 billion in 2020 to reach US$ 8.5 billion by 2025.
The grant support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation follows the company’s oversubscribed US$116 million Series D funding round, giving it an over US$200 million in total funding to date.
Prior to that AgBiome raised US$65 million in Series C round in 2018.