Innovation That Matters

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Protecting crops from disease with engineered bacteria

Agriculture & Energy

Could biologically engineered solutions replace toxic pesticides?

Spotted: As the global population rises, so does the need to strengthen food systems and ensure long-term food security. At the moment, between 20 and 40 per cent of crops are destroyed every year by disease and pests. Finding ways to combat this could have a huge impact on the health of our global agricultural systems and the availability of food.

Robigo is one company doing just that, using its team of expert biological engineers and data scientists to develop synthetic biology solutions that target plant diseases. Rather than introducing foreign chemicals like traditional pesticides, which often pollute surrounding ecosystems, Robigo looks to naturally-occurring microbes that already live in the soil or on plants.

These microbes are then biologically engineered so that they precisely target agricultural diseases once applied via crop spraying, without harming beneficial microorganisms and insects, human consumers, or the wider environment. Ordinary pesticides kill microorganisms indiscriminately, but Robigo’s solutions target specific pathogens, maintaining the health of the broader soil microbiome.

In 2023, Robigo completed a seed financing round led by Congruent Ventures, garnering $10 million (around €9.3 million), with investments from Good Growth Capital, First Star Ventures, and others. Having proven the success of its microbial solutions in the lab, Robigo is using the seed funding to prove their efficacy in the field and expand its solutions to include a wider range of diseases.

Springwise has spotted other ways that innovators have been using nature-based solutions to cultivate healthier crops, including by using fungi and extremophile bacteria.

Written By: Lauryn Berry and Matilda Cox




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