Platform 10 Ignites Global Bio-Ag Trials, Targets Pesticide Use

Platform 10, an international collaboration aimed at accelerating the adoption of agricultural biologicals, has launched its grower trial network to conduct extensive global field trials on grower farms. The announcement was made this week at the Salinas Biological Summit event in California by the Western Growers Association (WGA) and agrifoodtech consultancy Wharf42, the creators of Platform 10.

The field trials will initially commence in California before expanding to other regions across both hemispheres, starting with New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, and the UK. Wharf42 founder Peter Wren-Hilton, speaking onstage at the summit, highlighted the universal challenges faced by growers globally. “Some of the challenges that you face here in California and the wider US market are actually not dissimilar to the challenges that growers everywhere face,” he said. Among these challenges are the rising resistance to chemical solutions among pests and diseases, increased consumer demand for “cleaner” produce, and stringent regulatory measures phasing out chemical solutions in many parts of the world.

Dr. Louise Sutherland, project development director for Ceres Agri-Tech, emphasized the role of food retailers in the UK in driving these changes. “That means some don’t allow certain ingredients, some only allow a certain level of residues, and some do their own integrated pest management (IPM) audit. They are on a mission to reduce pesticide usage. Growers, whether domestic or those exporting, must be able to understand and meet these requirements,” she said. These restrictions also affect the export/import process, as noted by Dr. Louise Thatcher, principal research scientist at CSIRO Agriculture and Food in Australia. “If there are chemical restrictions in place in other countries, growers need to make sure they can meet those demands. We have similar issues around costs of products, reliability, efficacy. Uniform testing of products is very important.”

To address these challenges, the Platform 10 Grower Trial network will conduct grower trials of biological products. Wren-Hilton stated, “That will provide us with the opportunity to use counter-seasonal cropping seasons to really accelerate growth and grow the opportunity [for biologicals].” Platform 10 was conceived at the 2023 Salinas Biological Summit, with participants expressing a desire for immediate action rather than waiting for another annual conference. Officially launched in November 2023, Platform 10 identified 10 biopesticide products through a request for proposals (RFP), which will soon enter field trials with farmers in the Western Growers network in California.

The program initially targets five specialty crops with high-priority diseases: leafy greens (INSV, pythium, thrips), tomatoes (beet leafhopper, thrips, tomato spotted wilt virus), grapes (mealy bug, powdery mildew, botrytis), strawberries and other berries (lygus bug, macrophomina, phytophthora), and citrus (citrus thrips, red scale). “As we go forward, we will be releasing new RFPs that will reflect the interests and concerns of the different locations in which we’re operating,” said Wren-Hilton.

Platform 10 has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Plant & Food Research in New Zealand, with the Grower Trial network likely to head there next. Wren-Hilton also mentioned that Platform 10 will sign several other agreements with leading organizations in other countries over the next several months, with discussions ongoing with groups in the Netherlands, Israel, and Latin American countries. “My expectation is by this time next year we’ll be able to announce a number of global partners within the Platform 10 network,” he concluded.

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