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A novel bio-controlling pre-harvest method to eliminate the mycotoxins contamination in agri-food sector

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FREEMYCO (A novel bio-controlling pre-harvest method to eliminate the mycotoxins contamination in agri-food sector)

Berichtszeitraum: 2019-08-01 bis 2020-01-31

Mycotoxins are toxins produced by microorganisms categorized as fungi. Some of them, such as aflatoxins, have shown to be dangerous to both humans and animals. Exposure to these elements is linked to a range of serious illnesses and diseases in humans, from respiratory problems to cancer diseases. Besides these health issues, mycotoxins cause relevant economic losses and decrease of productivity. These losses have been estimated around one billion dollar/year, and over US$ 500 million to mitigate the damage of only three mycotoxins: aflatoxins, fumonisins and trichothecenes.

To face these problems, there exist several synthetic fungicides which serve as the primary means by which postharvest diseases are controlled. However, new solutions are needed for many reasons, such as the limited efficacy of chemical pesticides due to development of pathogen resistance, and public demand for organic foods. The employment of synthetic pesticides negatively affects the environment, polluting the ground, groundwater and the agricultural products. Also, these products, can affect flora and fauna of the zone in microbial and animal level. Under these circumstances, the most optimal strategy to reduce the synthetic fungicide use is the biological control.

Biological control using antagonistic microorganisms is an emergent alternative to efficiently manage fungi and mycotoxins production and hence, reducing the use of chemical compounds.

The aim of Ideagro company through FREEMYCO project is the development of a new bio-fungicide able to reduce or eliminate the main mycotoxin-producing fungal species and especially Aspergillus that synthesize aflatoxins. FREEMYCO product will have a pre-harvest application, reducing/eliminating so the concentration of mycotoxins in the field and consecutively in the final product.

FREEMYCO is important for the society because it will contribute to ensure food security and food quality by reducing mycotoxins contamination and more specifically aflatoxin in food, feed and fodder. The reduction of mycotoxins levels, involves the reduction of several human health issues, such as, in the worst case, cancer. Furthermore, this product will have a great impact in avoiding economic losses and environmental problems caused by mycotoxins.

Ideagro is a 9-years experienced company which main activity is R&D focused on the agri-food sector. During the last six years, we have tested commercial and experimental products, which have led us to specialize in the use of microorganisms and bio-stimulants reducing the input of agrochemicals, as well as developing new bio-phytosanitary products to promote the reduction of residues in agricultural products.

The key goal of FREEMYCO project is to producing in a high scale level a bio-fungicide product able to control aflatoxin contamination on the field. Therefore, the objectives of the first phase project were: (1) Market analysis, (2) Technical and (3) Financial viability of FREEMYCO
This Feasibility Study comprises four main tasks:

Task 1: Technical Work Plan.
Within this task we clarified all the technical barriers for advancing with the project. Concretely, we a) defined the stabilization method of active matter; b) defined the end-product optimal concentration; c) designed the pilot plant production; and d) defined the road map for an exhaustive assay to verify the efficiency of the final product and then register it.
Furthermore, we completed and soundly structured the technical work plan designed to achieve FREEMYCO´s transition from TRL6 to TRL9, with a detailed definition of 5 Work Packages, tasks and main outcomes from all phases, as well as a temporal schedule and preliminary budget. Subcontracting needs have been identified in tasks where they are critical.

Task 2: Market Study update. (1) We collected and analysed in depth information from various biopesticides market data and research studies. Biopesticides comprise a small share of the total crop protection market globally, with a value of about $3 billion worldwide, accounting for just 5% of the total crop protection market. Based on the set of information analysed, we have concluded that the forecasts are optimistic, with a notable market growth trend just coinciding with the market launch of FREEMYCO. (2) Also, we estimated our market size following the TAM-SAM-SOM methodology, resulting a Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM) of almost €115.22M yearly. (3) We have refined FREEMYCO’s value chain, by leveraging our coaching sessions and our coach’s knowledge of this industry’s insights, and have identified the key stakeholders for the successful commercialization of FREEMYCO. A first approximation to the basis of a future Engagement Plan has been issued. (4) Finally, we have performed an in-depth analysis of the different sales schemes functioning in the market. For FREEMYCO sale scheme is based in the use of distributors and bio-fungicide producer partners. This scheme implies that Ideagro would obtain a royalty when the product is sold already formulated by the bioproducts producer.

Task 3: Freedom to Operate (FtO) analysis and IPR Strategy: A thorough patents search has been performed to guarantee that FREEMYCO commercialization can be addressed without infringing valid IPR of others. In view of the results, we conclude that the novelty of FREEMYCO´s features is not already protected by any published patent. However, there is an outstanding current trend in this field to advance in the searching of new aflatoxin biologic control alternatives in order to ensure the safety and the quality of the food commodities both for human and animals. In this regard, we have developed a strong strategy to protect our know-how and our end product in order to fairly compete in the national and international markets.

Task 4: A thorough Business Plan for FREEMYCO has been issued. Results are optimistic for FREEMYCO’s commercialization, which will result on an increase of our international dimension and will positively impact our commercial and financial indicators.
Our FtO analysis shows that there are several patents regarding to the biopesticides and their uses to control different fungi. However, our FREEMYCO product is totally different from the existing patents till date, so we can assure that we overcome the current state of the art.

FREEMYCO product and technology will create a business opportunity for IDEAGRO company. We have estimated as 5-year accumulated revenues a total of 44,609.11k €. In the fifth year (2026) we expect to reach 34% of total estimated market share. Also, we have estimated the net profits per each year and the accumulated of five years which reach 13,753.63k €.

FREEMYCO project will position IDEAGRO as technological reference and a world leading company within our market, in the field bio-pesticides, contributing to our scale-up.

Social impact: FREEMYCO will contribute significantly reduce numerous negative health effects associated with chemical plant protection products, among other dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects. FREEMYCO product ensures the reduction of chemical fungicide, human health consequences and enhancement of food nutrition quality.
Maize infected by aspergillus