Bee Vectoring Technologies (BVT), a Toronto-based startup that uses bees to deliver pesticides, got a nice regulatory boost this week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the company’s fungicide for use on commercial crops. This also marks the first time the EPA has approved any product for delivery by bees.
Clonostachys rosea CR-7, which is sold under the name Vectorite, is an organic fungicide that is labeled for use on strawberries, blueberries, sunflowers and almonds. It is a powder that is held in trays that sit outside commercial beehives. As we wrote last year, when bees exit the hive, the powder, which BVT says is not harmful to bees, gets on their feet. As the bees land on a plant and shake a flower to release pollen, the fungicide is dropped. This surgical type of delivery can give farmers more precise pesticide application methods than they might get with broad spraying.
I spoke with Ashish Malik, President and CEO of BVT, who explained that CR-7 is derived from a micro-organism found in soil around the world. BVT has isolated a particular strain that can colonize plant tissue quickly and helps fight of botrytis in fruit, which manifests as a fuzzy grey mold.
“We have a number of studies and results from trials and every single trial we’ve done we’ve shown a positive effect, 20 – 25 percent better yields in strawberries,” Malik said. The results were even higher with blueberries, according to BVT press materials sent to The Spoon that said there was a 77 percent bump in fruit yield with CR-7 as well as a 50 percent gain in the number of marketable berries.
In addition to better yields, Malik said that there is early evidence that BVTs fungicide can help keep strawberries fresher longer, though he was insistent that more trials needed to be conducted before they made that claim official. If those early freshness results are borne out with further testing, it’s not hard to imagine CR-7 being used in conjunction with other startups like AgShift and Apeel in fighting food waste. CR-7 could prolong food freshness while AgShift helps route food to locations based on freshness, and Apeel would extend that freshness even longer. All of this is in theory, anyway.
Up until now, BVT has been in testing with university researchers as well as some farm demonstrations. With the EPA approval, BVT now has license to operate CR-7 as a biological fungicide commercially. “This gives us credibility in the eyes of US grower, but also outside the US,” said Malik.
Though BVT is small, it is already listed on the Toronto stock exchange. As the company looks to scale up production, Malik said it would raise the money to do so by issuing more common stock. With the EPA approval, the buzz on BVT might just be starting.