VIB spin-off aims to increase and protect crop yields

Summary

Ghent-based Aphea.Bio will develop ‘bio-pesticides’ and explore the micro-organisms that have a positive effect on a plant’s health

Extra dose

Life sciences research institute VIB has launched a spin-off to develop sustainable agricultural products based on natural micro-organisms, which should increase crop yields and protect them against fungal diseases.

Aphea.Bio is a joint project with the universities of Ghent and Leuven and is based in Ghent. It will create innovative “bio-pesticides” based on natural micro-organisms, which will provide an alternative to chemical pesticides. It will also develop novel “bio-stimulants”, micro-organisms that stimulate crop growth, for example through promoting the uptake of nutrients from the soil.

Through bio-informatics and DNA analysis, the company will map the soil life around plants and evaluate which micro-organisms – such as bacteria and fungi – have a positive effect on a plant’s growth and health. The aim is to give crops an extra dose of these healthy organisms by integrating them in a coating on the seeds.

“Our applications are focused on staple crops such as wheat, barley and maize because they offer the most valuable European and global market opportunities,” said Isabel Vercauteren, CEO of Aphea.Bio. According to De Tijd, the company’s ambition is to have a first product ready for sale by 2022.

Aphea.Bio raised €7.7 million in capital and received an R&D grant worth €1.3 million from  the Flemish government’s innovation and entrepreneurship agency (Vlaio).

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