Monday, August 22, 2022

Nanotech ag. company raises $26 million US

 Vive Crop Production of Mississauga has raised $26 million US to advance its development and sale of nanotechnology products that precisely deliver pesticides to plants.

Their Allosperse product has been approved for use in the United States, but so far not in Canada.

It’s the result of work by three doctoral students at the University of Toronto who were looking for applications for nanotechnology. Their fitst attempts with non-reflecting glass for cars or better television displays flubbed.

Each time “we’d get to a certain point and realize our technology wasn’t the best possible fit for what we were trying to do,” Darren Anderson, one of the students, said in an interview with the Globe and Mail.

The one idea that stuck was farming, “where there are real advantages associated with our technology, and where we think the technology gives us an unfair advantage.”

Today their Vive Crop Protection Inc. is growing fast and is on track to generate $20-million in revenue this year, up from $9.3-million in 2020. 

Vive’s patented products, which began selling in 2017, are used on 2.5 million acres of farmland, up from one million in 2019. It also has clean technology cred, as its products help growers cut fuel and water usage and increase yields while reducing use of chemicals that kill bugs, fungi and weeds and enhance soil.

“They are one of the leaders in the emerging Ontario ecosystem in agtech,” said Leah Lawrence, chief executive with Sustainable Technology Development Canada, a federal agency that has funded Vive projects. 

“With water and food scarcity due to war and drought, agtech has never been more important for food security. It’s an interesting space for sustainable technology and Canada could really clean up” in the field.

“The team is awesome, the technology is outstanding and they are a cleantech darling with world-beating technology grown right here in Canada,” said Kyle Scott, managing director with Emmertech, managed by the venture arm of Saskatchewan’s Conexus Credit Union. They are one of several partners investing $16 million.

“Anything that can reduce chemistry going on the crop, you’re not only saving farmers money, it’s also good for the environment. We had to find a way to work with them.”

Vive’s core technology, Allosperse, is a delivery technology similar to molecules used to ferry drugs such as heart medications or COVID-19 vaccines to their precise target in the body.

Allosperse is a capsule that looks like two snakes intertwined in a sphere. It is a tiny shuttle whose interior is designed to be friendly to the payload, be it particles of insecticide, herbicide, fungicide or biological alternatives. 

The exterior is made to enhance how the particles interact with their environment, by, for example, making them stick better to leaves or stay in suspension longer in soil.

The polymer is mixed with the crop-protecting chemicals and milled to ensure the chemicals squeeze into the shuttles.

Once Vive’s products have done their job, they biodegrade. “Our whole technology is environmentally friendly,” Mr. Anderson said. 

The United States Envirommental Protection Agency has approved seven Vive products.

One of the advantages of using Vive products, said Mike Richmond, a commodity crop farmer in Bay Port, Mich., is that they can be distributed along with fertilizer in a process called “in-furrow pop-up” fertilization, where fertilizer is dropped directly on seeds in trenches before they are closed.

That saves a separate spraying pass, which translates to savings of hours of labour, hundreds of gallons of fuel and tens of thousands of gallons of water a year on a typical sugar beet farm, Anderson said.

It's simply amazing how many ways the Canadian government finds to leave Canadian farmers at a competitive disadvantage with farmers just over the border.

Trump's subsidies were another glaring example.