Canadian based Terramera has an ‘audacious goal’ to reduce synthetic pesticide loads by 80 percent and improve the performance of organic products, in what the company’s leader calls a “whole new area of science.”
“The key issue we were trying to solve was the argument that natural, organic, biological ag inputs could not be as effective and consistent as synthetics, which doesn’t make sense from a biological and evolutionary perspective,” says Karn Manhas, founder and CEO of Terramera. “We tried to deconstruct why biological and natural materials were performing less consistently than their synthetic counterparts and understand how to bridge that science and technology to allow those materials to be more effective.”
Karn Manhas, Founder & CEO of Terramera
Manhas also considered a specialized segment of the pharmaceutical industry that was seeing interesting results -- natural product drug delivery – and wondered why that sort of targeted delivery was not taking place in agriculture.
Now the company has what Manhas describes as “audacious goals” to reduce the use of synthetic crop inputs by 80 percent while at the same time increasing global farm productivity by 20 perent; enough to feed another billion people.
A key difference between the active ingredients in biological products and synthetic products is the size of the molecules; synthetic products have smaller molecules that absorb easier.
Terramera has developed Actigate™ to make natural inputs more effective
Enter Actigate™, Terramera’s proprietary targeted performance technology. Actigate enables the active ingredients to be delivered directly into target cells, to increase consistency and performance of the active ingredient of both biological and synthetic products.
Manhas likens the current uptake of both synthetic and biological products to taking a shower of aspirin water when you have a headache. Eventually the body would absorb enough aspirin through the skin, but it would take a long time and a lot would be wasted.
“Essentially, we do that all the time in agriculture; we create formulations, apply them to fields and hope they get absorbed in the right place and with the right dose to be effective before they break down. This often means using two to 10 times as much product as is actually needed. So the key thing we tried to change was not how it was applied, but how can we get more of the active material absorbed in the right place after it’s sprayed.”
Actigate™ enables active ingredients to be delivered directly into target cells
“We want to make it more affordable for farmers who want to go organic and want better organic tools to get consistent results; we don’t want it to be a compromise to use an organic material. We want those organic products to be the best,” added Manhas who says from his experience, most farmers want to be using cleaner materials on their farms.
How can you get your hands on Actigate?
Actigate is a technology platform – not an off-the-shelf commercial product for farmers - as it requires a partnership with the input manufactures to integrate with their formulations, and Terramera is working on building out those partnerships.
“We need to work with the manufacturer to understand the chemistry of the active ingredient but also what the target is; if it’s a fungicide, we’d want to ensure an increase in the uptake into pathogen cells but not the surrounding environment, for example,” says Manhas.
Terramera's RANGO™ product is OMRI certified and can be used on a wide variety of commodoties and crops
But it has released two agricultural products available to purchase from a Terramera representative. The latest is called RANGO™, a broad-spectrum insecticide, fungicide, and miticide, that’s organic-certified by the OMRI and approved across the US. The product brochure boasts superior emulsion & stability properties allowing it to stay in suspension for 48 hours or more; a low freezing point for excellent mixing & handling qualities, zero-day pre-harvest interval, and a 4-hour re-entry interval. It also has four modes of action: antifeedant, insect repellent, growth regulator and fungal growth regulator.
RANGO can be used on a wide variety of fruits & vegetables as well as field and forage crops and trees.
Terramera’s other agricultural product is TerraNeem®EC, another broad spectrum, with the key difference being the amount of the active ingredient cold-pressed neem oil; TerraNeemEC has 85 percent neem whereas RANGO has 70 percent . Terramera’s technology can be used for many active ingredients including microbials, Manhas emphasizes. But it chose to model its technology on cold-pressed neem oil to start, which has been used in organic agriculture for some time but never truly scaled, he says.
Karn Manhas focuses on plant-based pesticides with the goal of improving agriculture
“We are looking at the industry a bit differently; we think to make real change, we need to work together to improve agriculture. That’s why our main model is to license our technology to companies and manufacturers to improve the efficiency and uptake of their active ingredients and formulations. We can’t get to our audacious goal of an 80% reduction in synthetic load by 2030 by ourselves; we need to work across the industry to improve the efficiency of all agrochemicals,” says Manhas. “We haven’t come across anyone in Ag doing what we are doing, however Exosect®, which we acquired earlier this year, was also focused on improving the efficiency and delivery of active ingredients in a complementary way.”
Unsurprisingly, Manhas says the organic industry’s biggest challenges are the performance and consistency of organic crop protection, the availability of good, high-performance organic herbicide, and the performance and uptake of organic nitrogen – all challenges he plans for Terramera to meet, and in that order.