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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Pamela Marrone

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

Since age nine, Pam Marrone has been chasing all manner of insects. Her fascination led her to pursue her PhD in entomology, after which, she was pursued by biotech giant, Monsanto, and went on to lead its Insect Biotechnology group. Eventually, Pam founded two “pure” biotech companies, Entotech and AgraQuest, a Davis-CA company that Pam founded in 1995. There, Pam and her team discover naturally occurring microorganisms, develop those into effective disease and pest-killers and manufacture those products for agricultural, institutional and home use. The challenge has been overcoming the “green” stereotype that natural solutions aren’t as effective or cost-competitive as their chemical counterparts.

Pam faced serious hurdles in her quest to compete against chemical solutions. Although chemical pesticides can be harmful to humans and animals, and ineffective when pests build resistance to them, they have, nonetheless dominated the industry for decades because they are effective and reasonably inexpensive. To compete in the fiercely cost-competitive world of farming, Pam’s first and largest target market, Pam and her team had to prove that natural solutions, or biofungicides, could offer “green” benefits to humans and the environment, and a cost-competitive solution with proven business results.

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 Costa Rican banana farms, AgraQuest’s organic products have proven that natural pesticides 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.

After discovering and screening over 23,000 microorganisms for their effectiveness against the most damaging crop diseases (costing farmers $5 billion annually) and convincing the skeptical agricultural market, AgraQuest hit its stride. It developed several strains of naturally occurring bacteria and commercialized these into a line of innovative, effective, natural products for pest management. Now used by conventional and organic growers around the world, AgraQuest offers the following EPA approved products: Serenade and Sonata biofungicides for fruits and vegetables, Biotune adjuvant for Serenade, and Rhapsody biofungicide and biobactericide for ornamentals.

Under Pam’s leadership, AgraQuest produces natural, effective and environmentally safe pesticides at a fraction of the time and cost needed to develop conventional pesticides. In 2003, Pam led AgraQuest to bring products from four countries to 11; grew the company’s product count from one to five; and increased market share in California premium wine grapes from 12 to 16%, in California lettuce from 12 to 18% and in Florida fresh tomatoes from 60 to 75%. AgraQuest’s patents and proprietary knowledge allow them to bring 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.

As a woman and a scientist, Pam continues to be recognized as a rising star. In Washington D.C. in October 2003, AgraQuest received the EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Award along with industry giants like Dupont and Dow. The following month, Pam was honored alongside wine magnate, Robert Mondavi, with UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Award of Distinction. Sacramento Magazine named Pam one of 2003’s 30 Powerful Women alongside Fortune 500 executives. In 2004, Red Herring named AgraQuest a top 100 private company, the only ag-bio company and only one of 13 life sciences companies.

Pam’s accolades from peers, academia and the government as a leader in the economically viable green industry only strengthens Pam’s resolve to continue her quest to tap the natural world for new answers to deadly diseases.

Brief Biography

Dr. Pam Marrone founded AgraQuest in 1995. Dr. Marrone was founding president and business unit head for Entotech, Inc. (1990-1995) in Davis (CA), a successful biopesticide subsidiary of Denmark-based Novo Nordisk (sold to Abbott in 1995). At Monsanto (1983-1990), she led the Insect Biology group, which was involved in pioneering projects in transgenic crops, natural products, and microbial pesticides.

With a worldwide reputation, Dr. Marrone serves on important state and federal advisory committees and is in demand as a speaker. She has published many articles and book chapters on agricultural biotechnology and biopesticide topics and has been featured in the LA Times, Fortune, USA Today, Success, Genetic Engineering News, Farm Chemicals and others. She has a B.S. in entomology with Honors and Distinction from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in entomology from North Carolina State University. She has completed over 20 executive-level business courses, including CORO Foundation's intensive "Women in Leadership" program. She is on the Board of the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy and Sutter Health's Sacramento-Sierra Region, Sacramento's largest private employer. She is cofounder and Board member of UC Davis CONNECT and DATA (Davis Area Technology Association). She is founder and Chair of the Biopesticide Industry Alliance (BPIA), an alliance of 25 biopesticide companies. She serves on the Board of the National Foundation for IPM Education. She also is on the University of California President's Board of Science and Innovation and the UC President's Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources. She was the Sacramento Chamber's 2001 Businesswoman of the Year and Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient.