New 'start-up to watch' curbs crop pests without killing them

November 26, 2021

Windshield cleaning could become a regular occurrence in the future as BioPhero makes it possible to replace chemical insecticides with safe and environmentally friendly pheromones

Pheromones are safe to other insects, animals and humans. Whereas insecticides are designed to kill insects, pheromones control pests by preventing them from mating and producing plant-munching larvae

BioPhero wants to become the world’s largest producer of pheromones for green pest control in field crops

BioPhero's insect-friendly solutions for control of agricultural pests has landed it on C&EN’s prestigious list of 10 start-ups to watch

Our pheromones can be used to control some of the world's worst pests in some of the world's most important field crops.”
— BioPhero CEO Kristian Ebbensgaard
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK, November 26, 2021 / -- Many people recall a past of more squashed bugs on windshields. Biotechnology company BioPhero is set on bringing them back. The company produces safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to insecticides that are attracting attention from investors, customers and the media. This week featuring as the topmost company on C&EN’s prestigious list of 10 start-ups to watch for 2021.

“That the world is taking note of our game-changing technology platform comes as no surprise because - in the words of C&EN - it is a world-improving innovation,” BioPhero Chief Executive Officer Kristian Ebbensgaard comments.

It's all about those bugs on the windshield. Insects are disappearing at an alarming rate and insecticides are taking a good part of the blame. BioPhero wants to replace them with pheromones.

These perfumes of the insect world are released by insects to attract a mate, but if a farmer sprays pheromones in a field, the insects’ you-hoo-I’m-here perfume trail is masked. As a result, they can’t find each other to mate. No mating means no eggs and no plant-eating larvae. It’s a little like trying to follow the perfume trail of a person through an airport. Once you reach the duty-free perfume store, you must give up, as the trail disappears in scented cacophony.

BioPhero has made it onto C&EN's list due to its yeast fermentation technology (think beer brewing). This allows for industrial scale production of pheromones that can compete on cost with insecticides used in row crops, explains Mr. Ebbensgaard.

"Our pheromones can be used to control some of the world's worst pests in some of the world's most important field crops. These are the crops that really matter in terms of food security and environmental sustainability as they are our food and feed crops such as maize, rice and soybeans,” Mr Ebbensgaard says.

Until now, the prohibitive cost of pheromones has restricted their use to niche crops in vineyards, orchards and greenhouses.

Earlier this year, BioPhero raised $17m from agri/biotech heavyweights DCVC Bio, FMC Ventures, Syngenta Group Ventures and Novo Holdings. In addition, the EU has supported BioPhero in accordance with its ambitious Green Deal through two EU projects (OLEFINE and PHERA).

BioPhero was founded in 2016. It is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) is the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative news source about chemistry and related fields.

Camilla Hebo Buus
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