Crop production challenges
Agricultural crop production is facing serious challenges. An ever growing world population and changes in feeding habits demand an increased food supply. Improving food distribution and reduction of waste helps to improve the supply but increasing food production is crucial. Increasing food production by expanding planting of crops is not really an option because of limited arable land and fresh water.
The increased attention to food safety and sustainability impose more and more restrictions on the agricultural practices. In addition, climatic changes make for much less predictable growing conditions, with more crop failures. Therefore, improving production efficiency in a sustainable way, without causing irreparable damage to our environment or depleting valuable resources, is essential.
Some 10,000 years ago, when human societies evolved from hunter-gatherer to settlement and agriculture, innovation already started. Farmers identified proper arable land, propagated seeds from plants bearing desirable characteristics and experimented with manure and plant extracts to support crop production. This drive to improve crop production – yield but also quality and safety – has never stopped and today we see a surge of AgTech innovations such as precision farming, drones and robotics, gene-editing, vertical farming, food e-commerce, etc.
In the 1940’s, innovation in organic synthetic chemistry provided the basis for the current $50 B crop protection business. Before that, farmers used natural products from plant, animal or mineral origin to protect their plants from pests and diseases. The application of the fungus, Beauveria bassiana, as a biological insecticide dates back to the early 19th century. Initial efforts to commercialize biological pesticides were attempted by several small companies founded in the 1980’s. However, they met with little success due to a combination of lack of basic knowledge and insufficient resources.
Nowadays, also the larger crop protection companies have become seriously interested and are spending genuine efforts to add biological crop protection products to their portfolio. By integrating improved seeds with chemical and biological crop protection products, effective, safe and sustainable production of high quality food products is within reach.
While most biological crop protection products are based on the use of micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria or fungi, AgroSavfe is focusing on biological molecules to tackle pests and diseases. AgroSavfe uses camelid binding domains (Agrobodies®), directed against pests’ and pathogens’ essential molecules, to develop the next generation of biological control agents.
Agrobodies® have the advantage of acting directly and uniquely on the target organisms. As such, Agrobodies® combine a highly specific mode of action with a minimized risk of effects on wildlife, bees, growers and consumers. Agrobodies® can be produced in a cost-effective manner by industrial-scale fermentation.
AgroSavfe was established in January 2013 as a spin-off of VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology), and is backed by a syndicate of renowned life sciences investors. A highly experienced and dedicated team warrants the successful development of the company.