Pests and diseases in agriculture, in particular fungi and bacteria, are the cause of an estimated loss of several 100 billion USD a year worldwide. The AgroProtect GmbH, which will be founded in the autumn of 2010 within the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Aachen, has developed a new platform technology which makes agricultural crops resistant to fungi and bacteria. The principle behind this technology helps increase the efficacy of fungal toxins produced in the plant’s own cells by a factor of at least one thousand, which means that the plant only has to produce a minimal amount of these toxins. The energy which is saved by this method can then be re-invested into the plant’s growth and yield. Plants which are produced from conventional genetic procedures must produce a much higher amount of the substances to protect themselves from fungi in order to achieve the same level of protection. The agricultural crops produced by AgroProtect are thus able to generate a greater yield while ensuring that the quality remains at the same high standard.
The worldwide demand for food will increase two-fold by the year 2030. This increasing demand is caused for the largest part by (1) a continuously expanding world population, (2) a reduction in the amount of agricultural land available due to urbanisation, (3) an increasing level of wealth in densely populated countries such as China and India, which in turn is associated with a higher level of consumption of meat and higher-quality foods, and (4) a growth in the use of plants for the production of energy and raw materials such as e.g. biodiesel and ethanol.
In contrast to the saturated industrialised nations of Western Europe, the emerging in-dustrialising nations, together with the USA, are focusing increasingly on innovative tech-nologies to help meet their growing demand for agricultural crops. In 1996, the first geneti-cally modified plants were sown in the USA, and 134 million hectares of genetically modified plants have been grown worldwide up to 2009. This means that, for individual cultivated plants, up to more than 77% of agricultural crops grown worldwide have been enhanced by genetic engineering technology.
The AgroProtect GmbH will play a significant role in this development, not only on account of its patented products and its advance in know-how, but also as a result of its superior unique selling propositions. The AgroProtect technology, which can be adapted quickly to different pathogen systems affecting plants, can generate a highly efficient, complete resistance of the plant against pests and diseases. Seen on a global scale, this feature is unique.
The founders of the company, Dr. Peschen and Dr. Schleker, have made a significant contribution to developing the fundamental technology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Aachen. Already in 2004 Dr. Peschen was able to demonstrate the working principle of the technology platform by using a model plant. Since then he has continued to develop the technology in his working group to a level which can now be implemented industrially.
Initially, the AgroProtect GmbH will concentrate on the development of new resistance markers, the integration thereof in new high-performance plant variations and the characterisation of these markers.
In the first place, the company will focus on developing a genetically modified potato, which is resistant to late blight to a marketable level. This plant disease alone causes a yearly financial loss of approximately 8-9 billion Euros worldwide.
AgroProtect Inside better than BIO!