chemical program is often a very effective way to use those products. It reduces use of synthetic fungicides and opens up the conventional world to biologicals. Speaking to the reputation of biologicals, Spadafora said that while there may be some lingering reticence from some, any stigma that might have once been there is largely gone. Biologicals, he said, go through a “very, very rigorous testing process and if they don’t work, we are not going to put them out there.” He said the value of the sector is apparent as the need is there to replace synthetic chemicals that are being removed from use by regulators. Biologicals offer an option that the grower needs. Another company operating in the biologicals space is relative newcomer Boost Biomes Inc., which is a resident of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. The three-year- old company is headquartered in San Francisco and expects to bring its first biological—a fungicide—to market in the fall of 2022. CEO Jamie Bacher did caution that the lab facility, which is housed in a commercial incubation space, has been temporarily closed because of California’s

COVID-19 shutdown. That may impact the ultimate launch date. The company was co-founded by Bacher and his UC Berkeley bioengineering professor, Adam Arkin. The Boost Biomes team is using technology developed in Arkin’s lab. “Our proprietary discovery platform uses high throughput DNA sequencing, elective enrichment and advanced informatics to identify microbial products with important commercial roles,” is how the company’s website defines the process. In a nutshell, the concept uses a statistical analysis concept to identify beneficial microbes. Bacher said the approach is faster and less expensive than traditional bioengineering methods and should allow the team to bring crop protection tools to the market faster. Another key element of Boost Biomes business model is that it is partnering with crop protection firms, who at this point are anonymous, to help discover, develop and commercialize the ultimate products. Again, Bacher touted this approach as a quicker path to product registration and availability. He said the firm’s first product, which has not yet been given a commercial name,

has shown to be very effective against foliar diseases such as downy mildew on grapes. It also is effective against both fusarium and verticillium wilt. “In the lab it has been effective on 14 different pathogens,” said Bacher, who noted that the company is targeting high value crops. For example, he said the biofungicide has proved effective against brown mold on peaches and blue mold on apples. He added that the company’s approach is to work closely with growers and packers and determine what their needs are as Boost Biomes develops products and conducts trials. Like the others interviewed, Bacher said the while biologicals can be used as standalone products and have great value for organic production, their greatest efficacy is often in combination with other items, including synthetic chemicals. He is a big believer in the crop protection ability that biologicals bring to growers, noting that all the multi-national chemical giants are investing in the space as the category’s future is bright. “My take is that growers and packers have a lot of openness to new products as long as the data is there to prove their worth.”



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