Innovators seek funds for food system improvements

By Kasey Worst

So you have an innovative way to better produce food. Now how do you get the funding to turn your idea into a business?

Over the next five days we’ll give you a snapshot of how some companies recently pitched their ideas at the Mid Michigan Innovation Center’s 2016 Agriculture Tech Forum in Bay City, Mich.

Each had 15 minutes to describe how their project was  innovative and worthy of investment.

Today: Adjuvants Plus, a company fighting fungus with fungus.

Officials with this Ontario agri-business company said they have found two strains of a fungus that create an environmentally friendly supplement to many fungicides and pesticides.

William Brown, the company’s president and co-founder, said that companies are looking for “green” solutions to their agricultural problems.

“Today, green is very much in,” Brown said. “Companies are looking to be greener: not necessarily totally green, but greener. We are a way of doing that.”

The market is rising for more natural ways to protect crops against pests and fungi that can attack their root systems, he said.

The fungus they work with is clonostachys rosea. The two strains, marketed as DONguard and EndoFine, can protect crops from other fungi, detritus, and can make plants drought resistant.

“What makes these organisms different is that they colonize the plant without hurting the plant,” Brown said. “They go inside the root of the plant, thus keeping offending organisms from getting in.”

The fungus will eat certain types of blight that would otherwise attack crops, he said.

“We didn’t know how good microparasitism is – the ability to eat the enemy.”

The company has made a slow release containment shell that ensures the fungus makes its way into the crop’s root system over time.

“You have to give this organism time to grow, time to find its home and then protect it,” Brown said.

The fungi can protect a plethora of plants, including pecans, wheat and soybeans. It can even be used on roses.

In pecans, another fungus commonly known as scab, is effectively treated by EndoFine, Brown said. Brown said pecans sprayed with its fungi need only about a quarter of the amount of chemical fungicides typically used to keep scab away.

He said the fungi can be grown so fast that it can only take a few days to create a year’s supply, and that it is also safe to eat.

“You can put it on the day before you harvest it,” Brown said. “You can spray the pecan flower, and when you get the nut six months later, it’s [still] protected.”

Adjuvants Plus asked for a million dollars to expand the company to the United States as well as European markets.

Tomorrow: Wireless livestock monitoring

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