The science of chem­i­cal-free agri­cul­ture

Element - - Planet - ANDY KEN­WOR­THY Andy Ken­wor­thy writes on health, well­be­ing, and global sus­tain­abil­ity. He is also a com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­sul­tant for non-govern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing WWF and Ox­fam. He has worked on global en­vi­ron­men­tal and hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues in the UK,

Stephen Ford is set­ting out to rev­o­lu­tionise the world’s agri­cul­ture, from an in­dus­trial unit in Pukekohe. That may sound un­likely, but af­ter years of suc­cess­ful field tri­als Ford and his team at Biotel­liga is com­mer­cial­is­ing a tech­nol­ogy with the po­ten­tial to su­per­sede and re­place the world’s chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides, with com­pletely non-toxic al­ter­na­tives. This in­cludes fill­ing the multi-bil­lion dol­lar niche now va­cated by the re­cent ban on ‘neon­i­coti­noid’ type pes­ti­cides in the Euro­pean Union.

Ford has spent the last 15 years work­ing to har­ness the pest-killing power of nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring fungi and bac­te­ria. Th­ese tiny crit­ters pro­duce safe com­pounds that travel through the plant killing, suck­ing and chew­ing in­sects, while oth­ers bore through the skin of the tar­get bugs and kill them within 48 hours by us­ing them as a food source. Nasty, but very handy for food pro­duc­ers.

Ford says: “They have been nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring in the en­vi­ron­ment for bil­lions of years and have evolved to con­trol spe­cific pests with absolutely no tox­i­c­ity to hu­mans, other mam­mals, plants, or preda­tory in­sects.”

The com­pany has had sev­eral prod­ucts al­ready on the mar­ket and more in the test­ing pipe­line. It is now busy build­ing an un­prece­dented national and in­ter­na­tional net­work of aca­demics, sci­en­tists and in­no­va­tors to help de­velop this work, and is on the hunt for big-time in­vest­ment to be­gin scal­ing up for world dom­i­na­tion.

Photo: sup­plied

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