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A ground-breaking biomolecular production platform for safer, more efficient and sustainable pest control and crop health management

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Lipofabrik (A ground-breaking biomolecular production platform for safer, more efficient and sustainable pest control and crop health management)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2021-03-31

The world’s population of 7.6 billion people continues to grow, reaching 8.3 billion in 2025, and nearly 10 billion by 2050. At the same time, this population, which has become accustomed to overconsumption, sees the Earth’s fossil resources exhausted after having exploited them with a level of productivity pushed to the extreme. According to the different scenarios used, world food demand is expected to increase from 40% to 68% by 2050. Even more intensive agriculture could cope with this increased demand, but this will undoubtedly lead to an overconsumption of water resources, fossil fuels, fertilizers and synthetic plant protection products to ensure high yields. The consequences of these production methods would be to aggravate pollution of ecosystems, increase greenhouse gas emissions and therefore accentuate climate change. However, people are beginning to realize that more sustainable agricultural practices are necessary to meet this global demand. Therefore, many challenges arise to answer the questions of environmental and economic sustainability and more particularly on the need to produce more food and bio-sourced energy, while preserving the environment and biodiversity. At the same time, EU regulatory legislation has withdrawn over 50 % of pesticides in the last 25 years due to their toxicological effects. Besides being highly toxic and persistent, chemical pesticides adversely affect non-target organisms and their excessive application results in increased resistance to pests. Consequently, the synthetic chemistry industry for plant protection has declined considerably, with hundreds of chemical products being removed from the market as they no longer meet the strict safety regulations. Nevertheless, the need to safeguard plants and therefore yield of agricultural. In this scenario, the use of biopesticides is being promoted due to their advantages over pesticides.
The demand for molecules of biological origin in this sector is therefore very high. A recent published report from MarketsandMarkets shows that the biopesticide market valued at $ 3 billion is expected to reach $ 6.4 billion in 2023. This growth will be driven by factors such as increased pest resistance, ban on numerous synthetic pesticides and progress in integrated pest management solutions.
LIPOFABRIK is an innovative start-up from the University of Lille, specialized in the production of biological molecules with application in the phytosanitary, food, cosmetic and medical cleaning markets. Our specialised team of researchers has developed and patented a production methodology for Mycosubtilin, a bioactive lipopeptide produced by Bacillus subtilis with demonstrated antifungal and stimulating effects in several crops. Since 2013, LIPOFABRIK holds exclusivity on this patent, focused now on its market exploitation and IP portfolio expansion. In other hand, LIPOFABRIK has also developed another different product from Bacillus subtilis which displays biostimulant activity. LIPOFABRIK aims to commercialize these two products from Bacillus subtilis: LipoMyco® as a biopesticide and PlantBoost® as a biostimulant. The first one contains mainly Mycosubtilin. The latter is a concentrated supernatant of the fermentation broth, rich in primary and secondary metabolites from Bacillus, this application was also patented by LIPOFABRIK.
This project aims to overcome the current market shortage on this kind of biomolecules, industrialising our proprietary formulation and process to be aligned with the voiced demand. We aim to increase our production 10 times and reduce cost sales 5 times. This will allow us to offer our products at a similar price than other biopesticides or biostimulant currently in the market. To reach this objective, the research carried out within the SME Instrument founding program are focused on the optimization of metabolic pathway to overproduce Mycosubtilin, on the optimization of production and purification process parameters and to scale-up the production process at an industrial scale. Upon completion, we will operate the first industrial lipopeptide production plant in Europe, providing a sustainable and cost-efficient solution for natural plant protection. Our proprietary biopesticide ingredients will be sold at a competitive price, being the only European company with capability to deliver bulk amounts, from 200-400 tons per year, of these biomolecules needed for large scale application in agriculture and gardening.
During the two year of the SME project, the LIPOFABRIK scientific teams focused on three main objectives: (i) optimizing production of primary and secondary metabolites by the Bacillus strain; (ii) optimization of production and purification processes; (iii) formulation, activity tests and administrative and legal procedures for the placing on the market of PlantBoost, a highly effective biostimulant product. The results of this work have enabled to enhance the production of biomolecules of interest by a factor 32. The productivity using new production process and new optimized medium is increasing by a factor of 7. Moreover, the purification process is completely optimized at a pilot-scale and led to obtain a purity up-to 99% with a good yield higher than 80%. All these technologies are protected by 3 patents that have been extended internationally in more than 20 countries around the world. Finally, the biostimulant product has already been granted the authorization to be marketed in 6 European countries (France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and the UK) and is expected to be commercialized very soon. At the same time, tests carried out on vegetable crops have given exceptional biostimulation levels compared to the products currently on the market.
All these results were communicated at various international congresses in Europe (ABIM 2019, ANTIMIC 2019, Biostimulant 2019, …). LIPOFABRIK teams also presented the results of this SME Instrument program to multiple scientific and commercial partners. Finally, thanks to these collaborations with different Universities, LIPOFABRIK teams have participated in the publication of 2 scientific articles in peer review journals, as well as one book chapter. Others very interesting results will be published in the coming months.
The progress and challenges of the second year of the SME program for LIPOFABRIK were numerous. To get a sale price compatible with the different markets, the level of production has been improved by a factor of 2. The production and purification processes were validated on a semi-industrial scale (300L and 3 m3) but have been also designed and optimized to facilitate their scale-up to industrial scale (30 m3). Finally, LIPOFABRIK must continue to carry out regulatory studies allowing the approval of certain lipopeptides as biopesticide at European and US level. The socio-economic benefits of this project are numerous. Firstly, during the two year of this project Lipofabrik recruited 9 peoples (7 of which were scientific staff), 6 of whom are still employed at the end of the project. In addition, in the longer term the outcome of this program should allow the establishment of a new European industry producing large-scale lipopeptides allowing it to be used as biobased molecules in many sectors, starting with the biocontrol sector. But cosmetics, disinfection and food are also demand for this type of active biomolecules to replace the chemical ones.
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Plantboost efficacy on lettuce leaves increase