Bionema, a biotech Swansea University-based company, has received a grant award from Innovate UK to further develop technology that could help combat pests which cost the worldwide economy billions every year.
Western Flower Thrips infected with entomopathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana BNL 103
The £765,000 grant was awarded under Innovate UK’s Open Competition and will fund part of a collaborative project with the University of Birmingham, APIS (Applied Insect Science Ltd), Silsoe Spray Applications Unit, AgroSmart Ltd and Qi3.
Bionema is engaged in the research, development and commercialisation of innovative products which utilise natural microorganisms (nematodes, fungi, bacteria) for the control of insect pests of horticultural, turf amenity and forestry sectors.
The funding will be used to develop and commercialise a microencapsulation-based formulation for the control of Western Flower Thrip (WFT) and Black Vine Weevil (BVW) which cause significant economic losses in high-value horticultural crops globally. European combined losses from virus transmission and direct feeding damage by WFT is estimated at £550 million annually, with worldwide costs over £5 billion. BVW alone causes annual losses of £40 million to UK horticultural industry; and £4 billion worldwide.
The Western Flower Thrips is adept at developing resistance to chemical insecticides while increased regulation makes control of the Black Vine Weevil difficult due to removal from the market of Chlorpyrifos (organophosphates) one of the most widely-used insecticides.
Bionema will be leading the work with the University of Birmingham. The project will provide a step-change in Integrated Pest Management by developing innovative new microencapsulation technology-based products for dramatically improved efficiency and efficacy over existing biopesticides in a wide variety of crops.
Dr Minshad Ali Ansari, Founder and CEO of Bionema, said: “There is increasing consumer-led retailer demand for growers to reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides (and residues) in crop production. This Innovate UK grant will really enable us to fast track microencapsulation technology, allowing the benefits to quickly feed back into the crop protection industry. We believe this ground-breaking technology will empower the global biocontrol community.”
In July 2019, Swansea University and Bionema will host the inaugural Biopesticide Summit to address the pressing need to develop alternatives to chemical pesticides.