US based Agragene received $1.2 million in seed funding this week from Ospraie Ag Science (OAS), the venture arm of New York-based Ospraie Management (a commodities and basic industries firm). Among other things Agragene uses CRISPR-based genome engineering to provide farmers with alternatives to traditional chemical approaches to pest management. This is something increasingly demanded by an environmentally aware public whilst also addressing increasing insecticide resistance and cost.
The agtech firm’s Precision Guided Sterile Insect Technology™ enables the creation of sterile male insects which, in invasive species can be released on a farm to breed with the native females. The result is a greatly reduced insect offspring number because the eggs of the females are non-viable. As these sterile males cannot reproduce they do not affect the natural order within nature but still reduce the available females for the males that can breed. Result – fewer pests, better crops.
Agragene’s Knock-Out™ product already produces a sterile male spotted wing drosophila (pictured above) which eliminates non-organic pesticide use in berries and stone fruits. The sterile male insects are applied by autonomous drone, workers can resume harvesting of the crop immediately following application.
The new $1.2 million seed round financing will fund the development and commercialization of this genome technology as Agragene CEO Gordon Alton explained “These funds will expand field trials of our sterile insect technology to protect crops. This paradigm shift in biological crop protection displaces chemical insecticides, reduces growers’ costs and is safer for the environment.”
“Agragene’s Precision Guided Sterile Insect Technology platform has enormous potential to disrupt the $19 billion pesticide market,” said Ospraie Ag Science Senior Partner Carl Casale. “We see strong demand for targeted biological pest control to reduce costly chemical inputs for growers. It fits perfectly with our objective to invest in innovations that help farmers do more with less environmental impact. We are confident in Agragene’s team and look forward to supporting the commercialization of this groundbreaking technology.”