May 15, 2024
Advancing research in biocontrols

Platform10 is an initiative to spur development and adoption of biopesticides and biocontrols through grower education and collaboration with manufacturers.

The program, a byproduct of the Salinas Biological Summit, will see its first field trials this year in California, with international trials planned for 2025. Platform10 is led by summit organizers Western Growers and Wharf42, a New Zealand consultancy that supports development of international agrifood systems.

“We wanted the summit to lead to action on behalf of the industry,” said Dennis Donohue, director of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, an AgTech startup incubator in Salinas, California. “We decided to launch a branded initiative that focused on education, communication and grower-led innovation. That innovation is anchored by a Global Grower Trial Network that will work on key problems that require new tools, and address regulatory priorities and customer interests.”

Platform10 biologicals
The Platform10 initiative focuses on pest, disease control research.

 

The initial field trials will be managed by the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology in Salinas. Unaffiliated third parties will oversee the trials, working with each company that developed the biopesticides being tested.

Initial research is focusing on six crops from 10 growers in California and major pests/diseases that growers of those crops battle: leafy greens (Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus, western flower thrips, pythium), table grapes (mealybugs, powdery mildew, botrytis), strawberries (lygus bugs, macrophomina, phytophthora), tomatoes (beet curly top virus, spread by beet leafhoppers; and tomato spotted wilt virus, spread by thrips) almonds and citrus (citrus thrips, red scale).

Less chemistry, more biology

Donohue said the California trials are expected to kick off in the second half of the year. “The goal is to be testing continuously in a ‘live’ commercial setting so products can be evaluated in a real-world situation,” Donohue said.

Companies chosen for the first field trials are AgroSpheres, Bayer, Boost Biomes, Impello Bio, Lallemand, ProFarm Group, Summit Agro and Vestaron.

“We are primarily working with products that have some trial data, registration progress and some funding,” Donohue said. “The goal is acceleration through intentional and strategic focus.” Field trials in other countries are expected in 2023; Donohue said domestic trials should work out any issues before the program expands internationally.

The plan is to announce new cohorts of product companies to participate in field trials every two years.

“This is a multi-year initiative to provide focus around key challenges and opportunities for the coming decade,” Donohue said. Global reach Donohue said research in other countries is key.

“The global aspect is designed to also create scale possibilities for the purposes of helping drive better cost opportunities for growers,” he said. “The global piece is quite important for the purposes of better economics and accelerated results on key problems.”

Platform10’s Global Partner Network details will be announced at the second annual Salinas Biological Summit, June 25-26.

Details about applying to participate in the global trials will be posted on the Platform10 website, platform10.ag, and social media channels. Interested companies can learn more by sending an email to [email protected].

Donohue said that “getting growers in the room” is an important focus of the biological summit. Research without spreading the word doesn’t advance the science to adoption among specialty crop growers. That’s why field trials, in connection with education at the summit and other channels, are important.

“Growers are more open to biologicals, but do have concerns about inconsistent results,” Donohue said. “But they certainly understand that we are heading towards a change in the (integrated pest management) ‘pie chart’ of less chemistry and more biology. “We think grower-led innovation is a key. Growers listen to other growers, so the commercial setting is critical.”

By Chris Koger




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