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PrairieChar’s Manure-Processing Tech Takes Prize at Agtech Showcase

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herbicides, antivirals, and insecticides, according to Patrick McLaughlin, Apse’s director of molecular biology. McLaughlin says Apse’s technology offers costs savings and efficiencies compared to other RNAi methods. The company’s lead product candidate is an insecticide targeting fire ants. Apse is raising $3 million in funding.

BioCHOS. Though farmers can keep fungal diseases in check by applying chemicals to their crops, fungi are developing resistance to many of the products now available. Norway-based BioCHOS is developing a fungicide CEO Berit Bjugan Aam says will be safer for the environment. The fungicide is made from a compound found in crab shells. BioCHOS has begun pilot-scale production of the fungicide, called AgriCHOS, and Aam says the company has conducted field trials. AgriCHOS will need regulatory approval before entering the market but Aam says the fungicide could launch in three years.

Biotality. As consumer demand for organic food grows, Tom Christensen says the need for crop protection products that meet organic standards grows, too. Biotality, formed by Durham, NC accelerator Ag TechInventures, has rights to an organism that produces a substance that kills fungi. The company’s initial focus is developing a seed treatment for the organic foods market but Christensen, Biotality’s founder, says the compound could have applications in conventional agriculture as well. Biotality is working with IR-4, a federal research program that supports the development of crop protection products for specialty crops.

Boragen. As BioCHOS noted, fungal resistance is a growing problem for the agriculture industry. Boragen aims to develop a new fungicide based on the element boron. The Research Triangle Park, NC-based company was the first investment of AgTech Accelerator, which joined in a $10 million Series A round of funding. John Dombrosky, CEO of both the accelerator and Boragen, says that the startup’s lead fungicide candidate will have a novel mode of action compared to fungicides that are already on the market. But he says that fungicides are just the start. The company’s technology platform, he says, could also develop other applications for boron.

Edison Agrosciences. The fungal disease that devastated rubber production in South America is now threatening rubber trees in Southeast Asia, says Matt Crisp, chairman of Creve Couer, MO-based Edison Agrosciences. Edison aims to produce rubber from a different plant that naturally produces small amounts of the raw material—sunflowers. By genetically engineering sunflowers to increase their natural rubber production, Crisp says the plant could become a domestic source of the material. Edison has raised $800,000 in seed funding to support a pilot study. Crisp says that the company plans to raise up to $5 million in a Series A round next year. The company will also seek partnerships.

NeuroCycle Therapeutics. Dogs scratch. But too much scratching can lead to lesions, or worse. NeuroCycle Therapeutics is developing an anti-itching drug that works in a different way than itching drugs that suppress the immune system. Instead, NeuroCycle’s drug candidate works through the central nervous system. Matthew Toczko, chief operations officer for the company, which has operations in Sheridan, WY, and Switzerland, says that because his company’s drug doesn’t suppress the immune system, it can be used in combination with other drugs that do affect the immune system.

Soilcea. The bacterial diseases citrus canker and citrus greening are devastating Florida’s citrus trees. Soilcea is trying to grow trees that can resist them. The University of Florida spinout aims to do that by using the CRISPR/Cas 9 system to remove genes susceptible to the diseases, says vice president and CFO Yianni Lagos. So far, Soilcea has tested a canker-resistant tree in a field trial. The next step is a trial testing a tree resistant to both canker and greening. When Soilcea introduces its trees to the market, Lagos says the company will get a license to the CRISPR technology from the Broad Institute. In the meantime, the company is raising $3 million to continue its research.

Tethis. Plants grow better in soil that isn’t compacted and has the right amount of moisture. One way to achieve those conditions is with superabsorbent polymers (SAPs), materials that can soak up large amounts of water that can be released slowly to plants. Tethis, a Raleigh startup spun out of North Carolina State University, has developed a bio-based SAP from corn starch that could be an alternative to petrochemical-based SAPs. Scott Bolin, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, says that the Tethis SAP can match, and even beat, synthetic polymers, in performance. Bolin says that the technology has been tested in one field trial. Tethis has raised $4.5 million in funding to date.

Public domain photo by Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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