Organic produce has become ubiquitous in the United States, and demand continues to increase as individuals learn about how it benefits the environment. Moreover, consumers are increasingly recognizing the adverse effects of synthetic chemicals on their health and the future of the planet and expect farmers to make more responsible choices, especially because technology permits organic yields on par with conventional ones. However, many companies are wondering if farmers can’t actually produce more and better food through new organic technologies. These companies are reframing the future of organic food and potentially revolutionizing the way in which we think about produce. Here are some key companies that you should keep on your radar:
Symbiosis is defined as the beneficial relationship between two organisms living in close proximity. NewLeaf Symbiotics builds upon the work of biologist Mark Holland, who researched pink pigmented facultative methylotrophs, bacteria that provide several benefits for plants. These bacteria consume a waste product of plants called methanol and then secrete nutrients that plants can use to grow. In 2017, the company closed a $24 million Series C funding round and secured a second patent for its symbiotic fertilization technology. Now, the company is preparing to bring its product to large-scale agricultural producers for commercial use.
Dedicated to developing new ways to protect crops from pests that do not harm the environment, Provivi has experimented with natural pheromone products that keep harmful insects away from plants. The company has achieved non-lethal insect control that is specific to various species by disrupting mating cycles. Without the ability to mate, pest populations dwindle and crop losses are minimized. What makes Provivi products stand out from others is their ability to target only harmful insects, while preserving those that are beneficial to plants. Currently, the company is focusing on development and testing before releasing the pheromone products for commercial use.
Another company focused on responsible pest control, Vestaron engineers bioinsecticides that come from naturally occurring peptides. The products have proven extremely effective and have already gained approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. The biological insecticides use a unique mode of action that prevents resistance in crops, one of the biggest problems with conventional methods. Furthermore, field trials of Vestaron products in the treatment of thrips have shown results that are on par with or even superior to conventional chemicals. The company has already brought its Spear-T product, meant for greenhouse growing, to the market.
Based in Italy, Biorfarm is rethinking the process of getting organically produced foods to consumers by cutting out the middleman. Individuals who live in areas served by Biorfarm can actually adopt trees at local organic farms, which grants them access to the produce from those trees. Farms provide real-time updates on the progress of the fruit throughout the growing season. Customers have the ability to come to the farm themselves to harvest the produce from the trees that they have adopted, or they can use a delivery service that brings the produce to their doorstep within 48 hours of being picked. Biorfarm helps farmers to grow their business digitally and empowers them to understand exactly how their food was grown.
Indigo leverages big data analytics to offer microbial treatments tailored to different types of crops and soil. These treatments create sustainable growing conditions that can significantly increase yields. Currently, Indigo provides treatments for soybeans, wheat, corn, cotton, and rice, some of the most important crops grown around the world. The company has collected data from plants and soils across the world and created software that optimizes microbial conditions to enhance plant tolerance and drive yields without the use of any chemicals. Ultimately, Indigo plants need less water and demonstrate greater resistance to pests. Through cotton, the company has increased yields by more than 10 percent with its microbial treatments.
One of the biggest challenges in the food industry is handling mountains of scraps and waste in a responsible way. Last year, WISErg raised $19.2 million in Series C funding to support the development of its food waste management system. The company collects scraps from restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores that are deposited in a self-contained system known as a Harvester. These systems are designed to prevent putrefaction and thus minimize odors, greenhouse gas emissions, and pest problems. The scraps are transported to facilities that process them into liquid fertilizer that can be used to grow organic crops.
Another challenge in the food industry is minimizing food spoilage after harvest. Often, chemicals are used to preserve foods that can pose some harm to consumers and the environment. Apeel hopes to change this with natural products to coat the outside of produce made from agricultural byproducts, parts of the plant that normally get tossed aside. These products create a very thin, natural barrier that keeps fruits and vegetables fresh for a longer period of time. Apeel’s barriers provide protection against biotic and abiotic stressors. The company has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, and National Geographic due to its revolutionary technologies.