Crop Enhancement raises $8m Series B to support trials for its ‘safer chemistry’ pesticide coating

“When you think about putting a film around something in the food space, you most likely think about  packaging or perhaps one of the growing number of shelf life enhancement startups that coat produce in a special material to stop them going bad. Last year, for example, Sufresca raised a $500,000 seed round for its edible fruit and vegetable coating to reduce food waste and curb plastic packaging while Apeel Sciences scored a $70 million Series C in 2018 for a shelf-life extending coating made from agricultural byproducts.

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Q&A with Mike Wilbur, Kevin Chen on Cavallo Ventures’ Latest Bet

“With its investment, Cavallo Ventures aims to accelerate the development of Crop Enhancement’s breakthrough crop protection technology in the United States — particularly for the production of high-value fruit and vegetable crops.

CropLife chatted with both Mike Wilbur, President and CEO of Cavallo Ventures, and Kevin Chen, CEO of Crop Enhancement, on the background of the new investment, and what we can expect to see next with the company’s technology and marketing.”

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Cavallo Ventures Makes Seven Figure Investment In Pesticide Disruption

Cavallo Ventures, the venture capital arm of global agribusiness company Wilbur-Ellis, has just announced a seven figure investment in agricultural technology startup Crop Enhancement, Inc. The California-based company makes CropCoat, a unique protective coating being touted as an alternative to more toxic pesticides on the market.

“In trials we’ve completed, our first product, CropCoat, is proving to be an effective and sustainable crop protection technology, says Kevin Chen, Ph.D., CEO of Crop Enhancement. According to Chen, CropCoat works by creating a physical barrier to protect the plant from “biotic stress [like] insects and disease.” In the future, the company hopes CropCoat could also address stressors like drought and extreme heat.

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New Mode of Action to Stop Insects

Agriculture has seen its fair share of new startup companies in the last five years. With billions being invested in new ideas, a lot of brainpower is being put toward a range of new ideas. Recently, Farm Progress talked with Kevin Chen, CEO, Crop Enhancement, a venture-capital-funded company based in San Jose, Calif., with a different way to control crop pests: a spray-on barrier that keeps pests out of crops.

“Growers can protect crops by applying a biodegradable and transparent material that keeps pests from eating a crop,” Chen explains. “Our CropCoat product is a foliar-applied spray formulation.” The product is a proprietary mix containing natural ingredients.

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What does Marcus Meadows-Smith see in Crop Enhancement?

“As veterans of the biopesticide industry go, Marcus Meadows-Smith is a heavy hitter. His résumé is packed with transformative business performance at several major companies (Bayer, AgraQuest, Chemtura, among others). Currently the CEO of BioConsortia Inc., Meadows-Smith has just taken a role on the board of directors of Crop Enhancement Inc., an innovator of sustainable agrochemical products for enhancing crop yields, where he will help guide the management team on value-creation strategies for the company. It’s a great fit not only because of his deep experience and track record in the agrochemical industry, but also because the company is serving the needs of growers and the multinational food manufacturers that source their produce.

“I understand the grower mentality,” says Meadows-Smith, “and right now, growers are aiming to increase their yield to sustainably produce food for the world. A part of that sustainable approach is improved profitability and lower environmental impact, which is where Crop Enhancement has breakthrough technology.”

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CropCoat Uses Unique Film to Protect Cocoa from Pests

“If you are a lover of chocolate, coffee, or both, you will appreciate the effectiveness of a new mode of action to prevent damage to coffee and cocoa pods by soft-bodied insects.

And eventually, the same technology could benefit corn and soybean growers, too.

CropCoat, a coating applied to the pods, comes from Crop Enhancement Inc., a California-based company aiming to create sustainable agrochemical products to boost crop yields. The company has concluded a two-year pilot project for cocoa pod producers in Indonesia, in which CropCoat prevented damage from the cocoa pod borer and mirids, two insects that can reduce yields up to 75%.”

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Envisioning the Future of Crop Protection

“One of the biggest challenges facing farmers — and many consumers — is how to control destructive insects, diseases, and weeds while avoiding or reducing the negative effects associated with using agrochemicals. There is growing support for new products and methods that address these issues, and there are a number of viewpoints on the best means to do so.

In May, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on these and other topics at the 2018 Silicon Valley AgTech Conference. As an entrepreneur with more than 10 years of experience in sustainable and renewable technologies, I was interested to learn how others in the industry envision the future of crop protection. The panel included key players in agtech investment, manufacturing, and distribution, as well as a technology executive at Bowles Farming Co., 11,000-acre specialty crop farming company.”

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There’s Hope on the Horizon for Pesticide-Averse Consumers

“When it comes to what we eat, the demands of conscious consumers are clear: They expect ethically produced and sourced food that is healthy, safe and affordable. Many of those consumers would be surprised to hear that the move away from toxic pesticide use is not a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, partly in response to early coverage of the damaging environmental impact of pesticides, the USDA established a nationwide integrated pest management (IPM) program to spur innovative methods to solve pest problems. Fast forward to April 2018, and the European Union announced that it plans to “completely ban” outdoor use of neonicotinoids, a class of synthetic pesticides blamed for killing bees. Neonicotinoids are used in the field as well as in seed coatings for corn, soybean, canola, and other crops.”

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Pest Management: 10 Companies to Watch in 2018

“Successful crop production isn’t dependent on any single aspect of cropping systems management, but rather many different factors that combine to produce optimal, harvestable yields. A key component in profitable yields is effective pest management. Harmful organisms create damage in many different ways and have the potential to cause massive amounts of loss in a given field. If left untreated, pests can decimate an entire stand, rendering the crop unsellable.  Farmers rely heavily on scouting and pest management strategies and technologies to catch infestations in their early stages to minimize potential damage. The following 10 companies are offering crop producers amazing tools to use in their pest management arsenals.”

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Crop Enhancement: Using Materials Science to Replace Toxic Pesticides with Smarter, Safer Solutions

“This post is part of our Future of Agriculture series in which we interview the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.

The following is an interview we recently had with Kevin Chen, PhD, CEO of Crop Enhancement.”

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