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AgraQuest Talks Sustainability and the Benefits of Biopesticides

by Millie Adcox/staff writer

AgraQuest, a Davis, Calif.-based biotechnology company that focuses on discovering, manufacturing and marketing highly effective green pest management products for agricultural, institutional and home markets, is on an aggressive growth path.

In the last three years, the company doubled the size of its R&D department, added 50 new scientists and has grown about 30 percent a year in the terms of revenue, Marcus Meadows-Smith, CEO of AgraQuest, told The Shelby Report during an interview at PMA’s Fresh Summit.

“We produce biopesticides that are naturally occurring things like plant extracts, bacteria, viruses, etc.,” Meadows-Smith said. “Our research in our company is almost all about bacterial production; it’s produced very much like wine, or beer or yogurt. So it’s a very natural process. It’s very safe, very low doses of what we put into the environment, but it’s also very cutting-edge. More than 50 percent of human drugs today actually come from biological sources. The benefits of biopesticides are (that they are) less toxic, only affect targeted pests, are effective in very, very small quantities on the plant and earn (higher yields).”

Today, sustainability and not leaving pesticide residue on products are the things that interest consumers and retailers, he added. “We are now engaged in conversations with the likes of Walmart and Unilever, and they’re trying to find out how they can take their goals of sustainability and drive them down to practical actions. They are going to be asking people to deliver sustainable agriculture. When we talk about sustainability, it’s about people, it’s about the planet, but it’s also about profit. It has to be good for the grower, it has to be good for the distribution chain, it has to be good for the retailer and it has to be affordable for the consumer.”

The company focuses on three key challenges:

  • Food quality—making sure to get the food quality that everyone is looking for;
  • Reducing the environmental impact—no pesticide residue and no chemical load; and
  • Increasing productivity at the right price.

The company’s products are undetectable in the environment and have a positive impact when used in rotation with synthetic products, he said.

“I believe we are doing the right things,” Meadows-Smith said. “We are creating green jobs, we’re being good for the environment and we’re being good for exports.”

This year, the company has released two new products—Serenade Soil and RequieM EC bioinsecticide—and have in the pipeline 24 potential products in the testing stage. This increase in product research and development was the reason the company added onto its R&D complex. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in early October.

Serenade Soil is a new fungicide designed to protect young plants against soil diseases such as pythium, rhizoctonia, fusarium and phytophthora.

RequieM is a new insecticide that targets all lifecycle stages of sucking pests such as whiteflies, thrips and mites, on fruiting vegetables.

AgraQuest’s brands include Serenade, Rhapsody, Sonata and Ballad fungicides and Baritone and RequieM insecticides. The company is regulated by the EPA and FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act), and it adheres to MRL (Maximum Residue Limits) standards.

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