This post is part of our Future of Agriculture series in which we interview the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Terramera, an agricultural innovator using plant-based bio-pesticides to improve crop yields by up to 20 percent.
1. What’s the history of Terramera? Where and how did you begin?
In 2010, Terramera’s Founder and CEO, Karn Manhas, was attending UBC law school where he got into an argument with a colleague about whether natural/biological materials were a viable defense against pests. Determined to prove their efficacy, he created a research lab out of his basement that led him to the natural active ingredient Neem, a tree native to India that has been utilized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Research showed that natural actives can be more effective than toxic chemicals and synthetics. Karn developed a set of transformational technologies called Molecular Delivery Systems (MDS), which increase the efficacy of natural active ingredients by delivering them into target cells. Today, the result is revolutionary, high-performance plant-based products for conventional and organic agricultural, professional, and home use.
Since the scientific discoveries made in Karn’s basement eight years ago, Terramera has evolved into a company that is committed to decreasing the synthetic chemical load by 80%, increasing global agriculture yields by 20% without the use of harmful chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and through this positively impacting 1 billion people’s lives by 2027.
2. What specific problem does Terramera solve? How do you solve it?
Currently, 37% of all US crops are destroyed by pests, resulting in an economic loss of $122 billion a year despite the widespread use of conventional chemical pesticides. The agricultural industry spends $70 billion on chemical pesticides annually in an attempt to prevent this, unfortunately leading to 3 million pesticide poisonings. Using green chemistry, machine learning and AI technologies, Terramera provides a natural alternative that is a safe and more effective plant-based replacement to toxic chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. We provide a sustainable solution for the environment and human health.
3. What’s the future of Agriculture?
Prediction #1: With 30% of conventional toxic chemical pesticides being banned by 2020, we foresee a demand for natural alternatives and certified organic farms significantly growing.
Prediction #2: Our population is set for continued growth, requiring an increased food supply that current agriculture methods cannot fulfil.
Prediction #3: The future of Agriculture will need to be reimagined. Our MDS technologies and products are designed to accommodate rapid transition and change of the market and needs of consumers.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in Agriculture?
Trend #1: AI/Machine Learning
Trend #2: Data Collection
5. Why is the Agriculture industry ripe for disruption?
Agriculture is vital to sustaining our population, however the industry can’t continue on its current path. We believe the solution lies in nature itself, and with our transformational technology, nature’s power can be unlocked and used to disrupt the industry in a revolutionary and necessary way. This will have a direct impact on the environment and human health.
About Karn Manhas
Founder & CEO of Terramera, Karn Manhas is an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in leadership roles in government, project management, community and business development. Karn is responsible for the vision and strategic direction of Terramera, and raised over $30M to build, scale and execute on that plan. He is a frequent speaker on issues of sustainability, making clean food affordable, feeding the world and building innovative organizations, including at TEDx and Singularity University in Vancouver. Karn has lead several companies and has a diverse set of experiences including being elected the youngest Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the Province of British Columbia. He is a member of YPO, and in 2012 was named one of Business in Vancouver’s top Forty Under 40 businesspeople. Karn holds a Juris Doctor in Law from the University of British Columbia and a B.Sc. in Biology (Genetics) and Biotechnology from McGill University.