Innovation That Matters

ClearLeaf's solutions protect crops such as pineapples that are a major export in Costa Rica | Photo source Tadeu Jnr on Unsplash

Sustainable strategies for combatting crop pests

Agriculture & Energy

A startup uses non-toxic emulsions to enhance plant growth by controlling fungi and bacteria

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Spotted: Each year, 3 million farm workers experience extreme pesticide poisoning, and 600 million people get sick from eating foods contaminated with agrochemicals. This is a particularly pertinent problem in Costa Rica – a leading global exporter of pineapples, bananas, and coffee.

The damage caused by agrochemicals—not just to human health, but also to the wider environment—is feeding calls from stakeholders and regulators for environmentally friendly alternatives. But finding viable substitutes that meet the performance characteristics required by agricultural producers and their demanding customers is hard.

Costa Rican startup ClearLeaf is rising to this challenge with a range of innovative solutions to replace harmful toxic pesticides. These are based on emulsions – mixtures of sticky non-toxic liquids that coat living and post-harvest crops that are vulnerable to pests. This coating protects the plant and promotes healing of damaged tissue. Crucially, the company’s antimicrobial agents are highly toxic for single celled organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, but harmless to humans, plants, insects, and wildlife.

ClearLeaf’s solutions offer several important benefits compared to alternatives. First, ClearLeaf offers one of the only non-toxic fungi-bactericides available anywhere in the world. Moreover, the company’s solutions do not cause microbial resistance and enhance rather than impede plant growth. Second, the fungi-bactericides can be applied at any time in the growing cycle and can even be used to protect produce post-harvest – keeping it fresh between farm and fork. Finally, ClearLeaf’s technology does not harm biodiversity on the farm – something that is particularly important in a country home to 5 per cent of the world’s biodiversity.

ClearLeaf is not the only innovator spotted by Springwise that is seeking to reduce the impact of traditional pesticides. One company has developed a sensor that gives farmers the ability to identify insect pests in real time. Another is employing bees to deliver organic fungicide.

Written By: Matthew Hempstead



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