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  • Writer's pictureClare Nasir

Swift, Successful Solutions to Agricultural Sustainability?

Cue AI Driven Biologicals

What is the gold standard in crop production?

The apex of highest crop quality is supported by cornerstones of sustainable practices and economic agricultural productivity. Ag biologicals are central to this and partnered with AI, the ultimate goal of scaling with safe, nutritious and clean food products can be realised.

For many years ag biologicals have been part of the solution but growers require results bespoke to their environment, crop and farming needs that also are timely and cost effective.

Just this month Lavie Bio announced the successful commercialisation of their second product through a licensing agreement with Corteva Agriscience. Their plan to roll out quality, site specific ag biological solutions at speed.

Amit Noam, CEO of Lavie-Bio reveals more.

Amit, this is a significant milestone?

This indeed is a milestone we are very proud of. This agreement comes after two years of independent field validation by Corteva, where they were highly impressed by the performance of our leading product candidates for the Fruit Rot disease.

We bring high-quality, innovative ag biologicals to the market that can be sustainable alternatives to the chemical solutions that exist today.

Our unique platform facilitates and accelerates the design and development of microbiome-based products, the foundation of ag biologicals.

This enables an increase in microbe selection predictability by ten times, compared to market standards, and the reduction of cost and time to market reaches at least 30%.

Where do you see the ag biologicals global market?

Ag biologicals currently in the summer of 2023 is at an inflection point. The macro trends are converging together to drive this market forward.

On one side, sustainable regulatory demands and consumer demands are at the forefront of this entire industry adopting more biologicals and less synthetic solutions.

This momentum will continue to transform novel products to industry standards. We all know it’s vital to replace a multitude of synthetic solutions with biological solutions — but scale is key.

Yet on the other side, multinationals like Syngenta and Corteva are investing significantly into this space, it’s a recent thing — they understand the future focus of their business.

Today Ag biologicals take up less than 5% of the total $200 billion ag inputs market, but we expect this to become 20% — 30% or more of the market in the next decade. Now that’s a huge growth.

There’s a third consideration and central to Lavie Bio; utilizing the technologies of AI and machine learning. Combining these scientific capabilities and microbe identification on the agriculture side will really move this industry forward at an accelerated pace.

This is the most powerful part of the space as growth will be exponential over the next few years. As a company, we have understood this market for over 7 years, with deep R & D, an extensive database to draw from and a maturing AI based platform that is already producing amazing results.

Yes, it’s a good place to be.

Are farmers embracing this transition and are they recipients of this change or the drivers.

It begins with the consumer, then the regulator with external factors instigating change and triggering this industry to invest.

For growers, ag bios is nothing new. It has been around for 20 years. Yet the seeds of change are slow, despite the benefits of healthy soil and greater resilience to climate and environment.

Change comes at a cost, and cash flow will always be a primary factor.

However, at ground level we know farmers want their land to be viable in the next twenty years with nutrient, rich, healthy soil that bring a multitude of benefits.

The transition will accelerate when ag-biologicals and their sustainability advantage deliver performance that challenges the synthetic solutions, and that’s just around the corner.

We are now getting to a point where farmers won’t need to choose between profitability and sustainability, but with the right biological products they will be able to get both.

As a company it is imperative we gain growers trust and support their implementation of new products and the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices — which on another level bring benefits of decarbonization and greater productivity, quality and yield. All that have long term economic positive impacts without the risk of degrading soils and losing environmental resilience.

So I think it’s a carrot and the stick question and the industry tried the stick approach for a while and it obviously didn’t work; if you are not supporting their agricultural businesses and it’s not beneficial why would they be convinced?

We are gradually seeing the industry moving to a more carrot approach.

An example of your approach?

We have developed and commercialised a bio-stimulant for wheat, and now partnering with food beverage company willing to pay a premium for growers to use our product, as it is clean and safe, and yield potentials are significant. By subsidising our product by 30% there is a clear and logical incentive for growers to adopt and transition, as the supportive care in place.

Are there certain countries who actively support growers with ag biologicals?

All industry is driven by regulation. The European Union is very progressive in their approach through their farm to fork policy, yet their regulation is the toughest, which slows the process down incredibly.

In many cases launching a product in the USA, comes three four years before regulatory approval in Europe. So yes, Europe is currently a big challenge for companies like us. Hopefully that will change in the near future.

USA and Canada are far more enabling markets.

Also an interesting example is Brazil. In the past it was difficult to get regulatory green lights here, but at the beginning of 2020 they reformed regulation and to date it’s much easier to get approval of biological products — this is kind of change that we need elsewhere.

There are many ag biological companies doing great work, what sets you apart?

We use big data, over many terrains, crops and many years — driven by powerful computational ability, with AI and machine learning technology as a basis.

Our goal is every two years to launch a new product to the market and we can through pinpointing the specific microbe that can eventually turn into a product.

This is what gives us as a competitive advantage; the analytical swiftness relative to a specific crop, and a faster time to market at a fraction of the cost. AI tools enable us to efficiently repeat the process for many species with a very high level of success.

What is the greatest challenge for the sector right?

The sustainability approach is currently more costly — but costs are falling. R & D times are being slashed with increasingly sophisticated computational analysis.

Chemical and synthetic solutions are very efficient but not sustainable. They never will be.

Time is running out, as climate extremes continually challenge even the hardiest of crops and the most experienced growers, we need to adapt and mitigate — and that’s the essence of ag biologicals, they do both.

The challenge is to break these trade offs.

That’s what we are doing; bringing products to the market that are as efficient as the synthetic counterpart but also sustainable so crop yields are high with absolutely no compromise on quality or safety.

Necessary steps for future global food security.

Listen to the full conversation with Amit on Chaseman Global’s Cultivating Conversations podcast, hosted by Clare Nasir

Lavie Bio is a subsidiary of Evogene Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: EVGN). Evogene is a pioneer in the field of applied computational predictive biology developing novel products for life science markets. Lavie bio leverages Evogene’s capabilities, vast experience and established expertise of predictive biology.

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