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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

AgraQuest

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

AgraQuest is a biotechnology company focused on leveraging its proprietary and proven screening technology and microorganism database to discover, develop, manufacture and market safe and effective natural pest management products for agricultural and other markets. Our technology enables us to discover and characterize naturally occurring microorganisms that can be developed into natural product solutions for almost any pest or plant disease. We are developing a portfolio of natural products that offer superior alternatives to existing synthetic chemical or genetically modified pest management products. Although our primary focus is on natural pest management products, our technology can be employed for the discovery and development of animal health, human health, aquaculture, industrial enzyme and specialty chemical products.

Using our proprietary technology, we screen naturally occurring microorganisms to identify those that may have novel and effective pest management characteristics. We then employ natural product chemistry to analyze and characterize the compound structures produced by selected microorganisms, to ensure there are no toxins, and to identify product candidates for further development and commercialization. To date, we have screened over 23,000 microorganisms, enabling us to identify more than 20 product candidates that display high levels of activity against insects, nematodes and plant pathogens. These include Serenade®, Sonata®, and Rhapsody ®biological fungicides, Virtuoso™ biological insecticide and Arabesque™ Biofumigant, all of which compete favorably with existing pest management products on efficacy, cost effectiveness, pest resistance, shelf life, ease of use, food and worker safety and environmental impact.

Company scientists have traveled the world, from forests in Eastern Europe to fields in South America, searching for tiny microbes that fight against the diseases and pests that cause havoc on crops. Once located, these microorganisms are screened, cultivated, and optimized in AgraQuest’s facilities and then sent—in powder or liquid form—to growers who apply AgraQuest’s product to their crops. The microbes attack diseases and pests, leaving no residue behind.

It's long been thought that biopesticides do not have the shelf life, cost, efficacy and ease of use of chemicals. The industry has reached a turning point with AgraQuest's unique approach. From Napa Valley wineries to banana farms in Costa Rica, AgraQuest’s organic products have proven that natural pesticides—or fungicides—offer the same level of protection against mildews, blights, rust spots and other diseases as chemicals do, but without the residues that can endanger the safety of people, animals and the environment.

While $28 billion is spent each year on chemical pesticides, challenges mount as home gardeners, commercial growers, packers, and processors are pressured to find effective, but safer, non-toxic alternatives. Additional threats include pest resistance (more than 500 known pests currently), government regulations phasing out widely used conventional pesticides, growing public skepticism about the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and increase of stricter international trade laws that affect the import and export of a number of chemically-treated agricultural crops. At the same time, demands for efficient, high yield production of crops increase, and environmentalists and regulators debate the future of home, garden, and commercial pesticide use.

AgraQuest produces natural, effective and environmentally safe pesticides at a fraction of the time and cost needed to develop conventional pesticides. Our patents and proprietary knowledge brings a natural pest management product to market in approximately three years, for approximately $6-10 million, compared to chemical pesticides, which take at least $180 million and 9-10 years to register for use.

The EPA awarded AgraQuest the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for developing a fungicide safe for use near humans and animals. Red Herring’s 100 Top Private Companies award named AgraQuest as a biotech that is “most likely to change the world”.