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EUR 15 million raised for sustainable pest control

A company participating in two EU-funded projects has received new funding, helping it to ramp up production of bio-based insect pheromones and market them worldwide.

Food and Natural Resources

Danish company BioPhero has raised a new round of investment to accelerate production and support the market introduction of sustainable insect pheromones. Totalling almost EUR 15 million, the funding will help the bio-based pheromone production specialist to produce high-quality pheromones that farmers can use to control major pests in different row crops. The harmful effects of conventional insecticides used in agriculture to control pest infestations are known to all. Many are toxic to both humans and animals, harming the farmers who use them, the pollinating insects and the consumers who consume the sprayed crops. A safer pest control method is mating disruption, in which small amounts of bio-based insect sex pheromones are released to disrupt the insects’ mating patterns. When the male insects are unable to attract or find the females, eggs remain unfertilised and therefore don’t develop into plant-eating larvae. The result is low pest population numbers and, most importantly, safe crops. “We aim to give farmers a new option: To protect their crops using biological insect pheromones rather than having to rely on insecticides,” comments BioPhero CEO Kristian Ebbensgaard in a press release posted on the company website. “In row crops this has not been possible until now because of the high cost of pheromones. At BioPhero, we have shown we can break this cost barrier. We are delighted to continue to attract such high-quality investors and see this as a testament to the success we have had in developing and scaling biological pheromone production and delivering new options for growers,” Ebbensgaard goes on to say. BioPhero is participating in two EU-funded projects – as a partner in OLEFINE and as the project coordinator of PHERA.

The benefits of pheromones

Produced naturally by insects, pheromones are non-toxic and insect-specific, and can be used to control pest infestations without harming the environment or having the adverse effect on biodiversity that chemical-based insecticides are guilty of. These sustainable pest control alternatives also help to prevent insects from building up resistance to conventional insecticides, therefore reducing their over-application.

Bio-based pheromone production

BioPhero is producing insect pheromones using microbial fermentation. “The production processes use renewable raw materials, produce less waste than the traditional chemical synthesis, and – crucially – are able to deliver insect pheromones at the cost, quality, and volume required for row crops such as maize, rice, and soybeans,” the press release reports. The company is now about to start production on its first pheromone product in order to market it across the globe. “We have been examining the use of insect pheromones in agriculture and new start-ups in this area for many years. Until now, no company has succeeded in manufacturing pheromones at a cost and scale suitable for worldwide use,” observed John Hamer of DCVC Bio that led the Series A funding round. “BioPhero’s patented breakthrough platform is the only one that is delivering the cost structure, manufacturing flexibility and quality that allow pheromones to be deployed on major row crops.” The 4.5-year OLEFINE (OLEAginous yeast platforms for FINE chemicals) project ends in June 2022 and the 3-year PHERA (PHEromones for Row crop Applications) project ends in February 2023. For more information, please see: OLEFINE project website PHERA project website

Keywords

OLEFINE, PHERA, pheromone, insect, crop, pest, insecticide

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