Even more sustainable food through biological pesticides
Published by Boerenbond – 17 januari 2022
Europe is increasingly restricting the use of chemical pesticides. When Biotalys was founded in 2013, a Ghent company that develops biological crop protection products, Boerenbond decided through M.R.B.B. and AIF to invest in this forward-looking player. With Evoca, which is expected to enter the European market in 2025, Biotalys has developed a product with which strawberry and tomato growers, among others, can protect their plants against powdery mildew and botrytis. But Biotalys has still other strings to its bow.
The Agri Investment Fund (AIF), a fund within the financial holding company M.R.B.B., invests in interesting companies. Such as Biotalys, which was still called Agrosavfe when it was founded and originated within the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB). From there, a company was founded to develop biological crop protection products based on proteins. To do this, it works with a technology that uses antibodies from llamas. Biotalys is the first company to use this technology, which proved very successful in the pharmaceutical sector, in agriculture.
Advantage for the sector
“Before we invest in a company, we always look at it in two areas, both of which we need to be able to evaluate positively,” says Patrik Haesen, senior investment manager at AIF. “First of all, it must offer direct or indirect benefits to agriculture and horticulture. The replacement of traditional chemical pesticides with innovative, effective, and affordable biological products is very useful for our farmers and horticulturalists given the spirit of the times. Secondly, we check whether the investment is financially positive: we weigh up the risk of the file and the possible financial returns. We check whether there is a market for the products to be developed, whether they can be made at an acceptable cost price… We want to create sustainable added value for the sector, but for that to happen the products must also be marketable, ie have economic added value. Spread over the various capital rounds of Biotalys, we have already invested 6.8 million euros in the company, representing a participation of 7.19%. In principle, our return is realized through the exit from the company.”
Eight products in the pipelinen
Biotalys – which has 70 employees, of which 65 at the head office in Ghent and five in the United States – wants to contribute to a more sustainable and safer food supply. “We have our own technology platform that develops new products against fungi, harmful insects and bacteria,” says Toon Musschoot, strategic communication manager at Biotalys. “Our protein-based products are biodegradable, safe to use for the grower and leave no chemical residue on the crop.”
The company currently has eight product candidates (biofungicides, insecticides and bactericides) for conventional agriculture and horticulture in the pipeline. “In the long term, we are also aiming for organic farming. Products aimed at fruit and vegetables, such as strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, and cucumbers, are the most advanced in the research,” says Toon. “With Evoca we developed a first biofungicide, with which winegrowers and strawberry, tomato and cucumber growers can protect their plants against powdery mildew and botrytis. We hope to be able to launch it at the end of this year in the United States, where we have already conducted successful trials at renowned universities and growers, and in Europe in 2025. Studies are also running for products for cereals and potatoes. Recently, a new research program was added as well with the support of the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation.”
Cooperation with Biobest
To extend the reach of its products, Biotalys recently signed a long-term cooperation agreement with Biobest. This world leader in biological crop protection and pollination from Westerlo will have access to five biological solutions based on proteins developed using the Biotalys technology platform. As a result, Biobest is expanding its worldwide range of covered crops and soft fruit. It will also become Evoca’s exclusive distributor in the US for all crops and applications.