The word organic is everywhere, and it’s in high demand with consumers. As people become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of agriculture, and the effects its synthetic inputs have on harvested goods, there has been a strong consumer demand for agriculture to move towards management practices that use less synthetic chemicals. It is certainly not an easy feat to develop technologies that are considered natural or biological to be approved for use on organic crops, while maintaining the same efficacy and yields as conventional management practices. These nine companies, though, are helping to revolutionize organic farming and propel it into a successful, profitable, and sustainable sector of agriculture.
Winner of the Michigan SmartZone Small Business of the Year Award in 2017, Vestaron is developing and marketing safe and effective bioinsecticides derived from naturally-occurring peptides. Their products have a high rate of efficacy, are EPA-approved, classified as biological, and have no known resistance due to their innovate mode of action.
Field trials of their bioinsecticide for treatment of thrips in vegetables and greenhouse ornamentals demonstrate results equivalent to or superior to conventional control chemicals. A 2017 agreement was reached with Isagro USA, Inc. to market their Spear-T product for use on greenhouse vegetables.
Goleta-based Apeel Sciences is using natural, plant-based technologies to protect crops and harvested produce , helping to reduce product spoilage and dependence on chemical methods. Apeel uses agricultural byproducts – parts of the plant normally discarded – to create products that fortify the surfaces of fresh produce, forming an ultra-thin, natural barrier that protects crops in the fields and shields produce from both biotic and abiotic stressors.
Their technological advances have been featured in National Geographic, Forbes, The New York Times, and Modern Farmer.
Their revolutionary approach is radically changing the relationships and interactions between organic fruit farmers and consumers in areas of Italy. Biorfarm is shortening the supply chain between producer and consumer, ensuring freshness and quality. Consumers create a digital field by “adopting” trees from local organic farmers. The farmers then share real-time data and photos of the trees and the progress of the fruit throughout the growing season.
When it’s time to harvest, the consumer can either come pick fruit for themselves from their tree or opt to have it delivered to them directly within 24-48 hours of harvest. Consumers are guaranteed fresh, local produce and the knowledge of how it was cultivated; growers build their business digitally, securing revenue in an innovate way.
While on the search for an organic fertilizer solution to fit a demand in lawn care, OmniEarth’s founder, Joseph Walker, set his sights on worm castings and is quickly making a name for himself in the vermicompost market. Over a number of months he worked to figure out the best compost to feed the worms, and tinkered with temperatures, humidity, and soil moisture to come up with the perfect combination.
In early 2017, OmniEarth was one of eight finalists in the New Venture Challenge, a competition sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at BYU, and in November won his regional competition for the international Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. With focus on fine-tuning his product and expanding his operation to meet the growing, anticipated demand, OmniEarth is on the fast track in organic farming.
With $21M raised in Series B funding in 2017, Provivi is an emerging company using natural processes to develop safer, more effective, environmentally benign products to protect crops from pests. They are creating natural pheromone products for pest control and crop protection. Pheromones elicit non-lethal, species-specific insect control through the disruption of mating cycles, resulting in lower insect pest populations and significantly reduced crop damage and losses.
Resulting products are highly selective, targeting only problematic insects and preserving beneficial species, offering an affordable easy to use organic product. The Series B funds will support further development, testing, and commercialization of Provivi’s new pheromone products.
Indigo uses a combination of data analytics software and microbial treatments to sustainably grow common agricultural crops. They offer seed treatments for corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat. Indigo has amassed data from plants and soils worldwide from a variety of growing conditions, putting together an extensive collection of microbial specimens.
The stains are then isolated and sequenced. Machine-learning algorithms then make predictions about what microbes will work in certain conditions and which ones won’t. Based upon these predictions, the team at Indigo treats plant seeds with a single strain of microbes or assembles a cocktail of microbes designed to boost plant characteristics. Plants grown from this microbe-treated seed experience less water stress, and need less fertilizer and pesticide applications. A backing of $156M in 2017 alone proves Indigo is about to revolutionize the biotechnology sector.
Biotechnology is booming in part due to the innovative advances of companies like AgBiome. They are using new knowledge of the plant-associated microbiome to create new agricultural products to combat unsolved problems related to insects, nematodes, and diseases.
Through this knowledge, they have created a unique, biological fungicide – a highly effective microbe that protects against a wide range of fungal diseases and has an excellent non-refrigerated shelf life.
In 1995, biologist/professor Mark Holland discovered that symbiotic bacteria called pink pigmented facultative methylotrophs (PPFMs or M-trophs) produce a host of unexpected yet important benefits for plants. PPFMs consume methanol, a waste produce of plant metabolism and in return secrete key nutrients that are important for plant growth.
A $24M Series C funding round in 2017 and the awarding of a second patent on their innovative technology has New Leaf Symbiotics preparing to launch their products commercially for large-scale agricultural production.
Starting off early 2018 with $19.2M in Series C funding, WISErg is reinventing traditional food waste management by harvesting today’s food scraps to create organic fertilizers to grow tomorrow’s crops. Food scraps are diverted from grocery stores, cafeterias and restaurants and deposited into a self-contained system called a Harvester.
Innovative technology prevents the scraps from putrefying, in turn reducing pests, greenhouse gas emissions, and odors. After the nutrient recovery process is completed, the material is transported to facilities where it is processed into liquid fertilizer approved for use on certified organic crops.