The question of “what are the real problems in agriculture that need to be solved?” is one we ask often here on this show. If you ask that to a dozen people, you’ll probably get about 20 different answers. But herbicide resistance is one that hits home for many. As you’re about to hear, the tools we’ve been using for decades are becoming less and less effective, and the pipeline for new active ingredients has been empty for a long time. Every year more and more weeds show signs of resistance - which is not a trend that can continue.
Today’s guests are the co-founders and co-CEOs of Israel-based WeedOut, a biological herbicide company which uses proprietary pollen to sterilize weeds like Palmer Amaranth, otherwise known as pigweed. Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili and Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik are both accomplished scientists who have already been a part of one successful exit: they worked at Rosetta Green which was purchased by Monsanto in 2013. WeedOUT is a portfolio company of Fulcrum Global Capital, who partnered with me on this episode.
“As we continued to focus on (weed resistance) we understood that this a very significant problem not only in the US but also in Europe, also in China, Australia, South American and all over the world. Out of the 26 modes of action of herbicides 23 have already reported resistance.” -Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik
“In order to slow down this process of resistant development, it’s very important to combine new tactics.” WeedOut has produced a biological pollen that works with the weeds biology to obstruct their reproductive cycle. This is a new mechanism of action that the weeds will not have developed any resistance to. It will also be difficult for weeds to create resistance because they will not be capable of producing more generations that could evolve and adapt. “We are actually reducing significantly the seed bank year after year.” Their main focus so far has been to target Palmer Amaranth as it is a weed of significant resistance and wide dissemination. They do not plan to replace chemical herbicide but rather increase its efficacy by not solely relying on it.
“By blocking resistance using our own methods, then you can extend the lifetime of the chemicals that are currently used instead of switching to more toxic chemicals...So actually by blocking resistance, we are preserving the entire set of products that are available today making them efficient for many more years.” -Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili
“Our strategy is first to fit our technology to the standard tools that all farmers have. And with the second layer we will continue and explore this opportunity to spray it using drones.” As well as developing different methods of delivery they hope to expand to different weeds. Weeds most susceptible to this technology would reproduce via cross or wind pollination. WeedOut has found success in finding investors that will allow continued expansion and development with a hopeful launch in 2023.
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