Comstock's magazine 1218 - December 2018 - Page 31

Chemical pesticides are used by most of the world’s farmers, representing 95 percent of the total crop protec- tion market. What needs to happen to increase the use of biopesticides globally? It’s the same everywhere I go: education and awareness. The growers just don’t know, they’re not aware of the products out there because most of them are the domain of small companies, and they don’t know how to use them. I was the keynote speaker at a first-ever bioprod- ucts seminar in Chile, and we had a pulse poll during the meeting that asked what would help create more adoption of bio- logicals — it was 420 people and most of them were growers from Chile and Argen- tina — and the answer was they would like help in how to use the products on the farm. And that’s true here; we surveyed almond growers and grape growers in California, and found that not only do we have low awareness of our company, but also low awareness of the [biologicals] category. How has your company been able to get conventional farmers to adopt your products — what key benefits are they seeking? Farmers always choose a product that has to work. They’ll also choose a biopesti- cide because they can’t use a chemical. One [example] would be that they can’t use chemicals right at harvest time. If a late pest comes in or they have a late disease, they have to spray. But if they spray a chemical it will run afoul of the pesticide residue rules that allow them to export the crop, because most importing countries nowadays don’t like chemical residues and impose restrictions … These are reasons why growers will choose our product. But it has to offer a return on investment, and it has to increase yield or quality, or control the pests. Really, performance is No. 1. “ We’re building an entre- preneurial culture and innovation culture here, but be- cause Sacramento has been a gov- ernment town, it’s taken longer than other regions. We’re getting some venture capital; we need more of that. Your company aims to create sustain- able pest management solutions that address major global issues, including increasing the food supply to meet a rising population. What areas of bio- tech are best poised for disruption? In order to control pests, everyone agrees that you can’t just use nothing. So right now [growers] use chemical pesticides a nd, i n m a ny p a r t s of t he w or ld, genetically-modified crops. We think biologicals is the third most impactful category that will influence how we’re going to feed the world more sustainably. Biologicals should be equally important a s mod i f ied crops a nd chem ica l pesticides, and indeed biologicals are the fastest-growing category of crop inputs. In terms of tools, gene editing is going to become very important because you can modify a crop and improve a crop without having to introduce a foreign gene, which is what some consumers object to. Surprisingly, Europe has said they’re not going to allow gene editing crops; they don’t allow GMO crops. But that’s very surprising because with gene editing, you basically speed up nature, whereas with GMOs, you add something foreign to a crop ... Gene editing is just another tool for modifying crops — a powerful tool. Tell me more about your company’s strategic investments in cannabis. We have a cannabis sales specialist — one person full-time — because we’re swamped w ith all the questions and we need to give the growers technical support. A lot of growers come into the space who don’t know anything about ag- riculture or how to grow a crop. We also created a new brand called CG; we’ve got- ten those [products] registered for use in cannabis in all the key states. California just came out with a report that there’s still a lot of illegal chemical residues on the cannabis they tested, so we’re happy to help transition away from that illegal use of chemical pesticides. California and December 2018 | 31