Development of novel solutions for sustainable agriculture: the potential of smartly selected beneficial microorganisms

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Isabel Vercauteren - CEO and Co-founder, Aphea.Bio

Short description of the presentation:

Stress in general negatively impacts crop productivity leaving the farmer with less harvest at the end of the day. Yield losses can be significant and with ever growing demands for ‘more produce-on-less land’, the need for innovative sustainable agriculture solutions is essential. Furthermore the use of classical chemical products is under pressure and certain products are being banned and urgently need to be complemented or replaced by biology based products.
The microbial community in the soil is as important as the one in human guts and some microbes are even vital for plant health and can help crops to overcome stress situations.
The agricultural biologicals market is gaining pace and even winning market share over the other markets: a 15% CAGR is forecasted for agricultural biologicals over the next years to reach a global market of more than 10 Billion USD by 2020.

Today, farmers and industry are increasingly incorporating sustainability practices into their current operations and biologicals are already an integral part of it. Often the efficacy of the currently available biologicals is not very robust and products have been developed rather by ‘trial-and-error’.

Aphea.Bio is a new spin-off company from the VIB that focuses on the exploitation of those naturally occurring, beneficial micro-organisms that really make a difference for the crop health and fitness and to develop new and superior agricultural biologicals. Currently, we are concentrating on developing products for growth promotion (under reduced nutrient conditions) and fungal biocontrol in maize and wheat.

Aphea.Bio is in a unique position to deliver innovative and powerful solutions to the market because it is sourcing microorganisms from the endosphere of the plant (i.e. those microbes that have developed a strong and long-lasting interaction with their host plant) including those endophytes that are unable to grow according to the currently used laboratory culturing techniques, thus opening a huge field of untapped microbial strains. Product development is supported by a smart, high-throughput, robust, sizeable and proven technology platform for rapid reduction from microbial sample to validation in crops. Aphea.Bio has built strong proof-of-concept data for growth promotion in wheat and maize under low nutrient conditions in greenhouse conditions.

Biography of the speaker:

Isabel Vercauteren is the CEO and co-founder of Aphea.Bio, a VIB start-up company focused on the research and development of novel and superior biological agricultural products for better crop performance, located in Ghent, Belgium.
Between 2008 and 2016 Isabel was employed at Bayer CropScience where she held different positions within the R&D organization with a strong focus on alliance management, technology licensing and new venture management.
Before joining Bayer, Isabel worked for four years at DevGen (acquired by Syngenta in 2013) as manager responsible for the plant nematology group and as a project leader for the development of Bt rice for the Indian market.

Isabel has strong expertise in plant biotechnology research, technology valuation and licensing, business development, deal making & negotiation and project management.

Isabel holds a Ph.D. in plant molecular biology and a postgraduate in Biosafety and Regulatory in Plant Biotechnology from the University of Ghent, Belgium.


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