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Cawthron is working with Biotelliga to develop a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides
8 June 2014

Natural solution to crop protection

Cawthron Institute has joined forces with biological control company Biotelliga to develop a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides.

"There's a disconnect right now between a public who wants food that has been grown safely and without harmful synthetic pesticides and growers who are under pressure to grow more to meet our global food needs," says Stephen Ford, Biotelliga founder and technical director.

"What there hasn't been is a transitional technology that can serve to bridge those two demands. Our work suggests that bio-control products could be the answer."

Biotelliga is working with a number of partners, including Cawthron, to develop biological, sustainable, non-synthetic chemical solutions that can be used on crops to manage and control pests and diseases.

Cawthron's Technical Manager Paul McNabb says it's been a partnership with Biotelliga since the beginning. "Stephen wanted to replicate what he was seeing in field trials, in the laboratory, and then isolate and measure the active compounds. Our analytical and natural products chemistry services allow him to further investigate and refine his 'recipes' for bio-control products."

Stephen Ford agrees, "From discovery through to product development and commercialisation is a complex process. Working with partners like Cawthron gives us two advantages: One, the data generated is independent of Biotelliga so there is robust peer-review process in place. Two, we are able to tap into the expertise we need to commercialise our products."

Biotelliga had a success in 2010 with the development of a bio-control product that controls white fly populations in greenhouses. From there, Biotelliga teamed up with UniServices and the Centre for Microbial Innovation at the University of Auckland and discovered a New Zealand fungus that kills other types of fungi, but is non-invasive and doesn't affect mammals. Along with Cawthron Institute, other partners on the project include Landcare Research and Grayson Wagner Ltd.

"We have promising results after three years of field trials," says Ford. "The bio-control could have huge implications both commercially and for our environment."

Now known as SF7489, the development of this bio-control solution could revolutionise how harmful fungi are managed. For example, SF7489 has tested successfully as a possible way to fight kauri dieback and a number of fungi that affect our horticulture industry.

Biotelliga is finalising its first multinational agreement for SF7489. Here in New Zealand, SF7489 is currently before the regulator for review.

Paul McNabb says products like SF7489 extend New Zealand Inc's reach. "It's fantastic to be involved with a client like Biotelliga where we're able to help them turn a great idea into a commercial reality."

Find out more about this research:

'Biotelliga goes on the bio-war offensive' - news article on

Contact Roel van Ginkel