Jan. 29, 2013
In Sub-Saharan Africa, most of the losses in the food supply chain take place during post-harvest storage and handling. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimate post-harvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa at around $4 billion a year. "This lost food could meet the minimum annual food requirements of at least 48 million people," said FAO Assistant Director-General Maria Helena Semedo. "If we agree that sustainable agricultural systems need to be developed to feed 9 billion people by 2050, addressing waste across the entire food chain must be a critical pillar of future national food strategies."
A UK consortium led by Exosect Ltd. and including the Government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), CABI and Sylvan Bio has developed a novel biopesticide technology for the protection of stored grain. This biotechnology will address the gap in the market for sustainable grain protectants following the phased withdrawal of the fumigant methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol and increasing insect resistance to remaining insecticides.
The new protectant targeting insect pests found in stored grain, is the result of 7 years of extensive research and testing. European regulatory field trials commenced in 2012 and having received a US$1m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the consortium are now able to extended this work to Sub-Saharan Africa, starting with trials in Tanzania and Ghana in 2013.
Exosect managing director Martin Brown says: “At times of food crisis it is often the poorest people who are the hardest hit. It is critical therefore in the current climate to ensure that they are protected from food loss and are able to benefit from modern, affordable technology”.
The technology harnesses the power of ‘friendly fungi’ (Beauvaria bassiana), combined with the patented Entostat® delivery platform from Exosect to control insects such as grain beetles. As long ago as 1836 Agostino Bassi, for whom the naturally occurring fungus Beauveria bassiana is named, suggested that microorganisms could be used to control destructive insects and protect food. Microbial control has progressed to the present day from the application of naturalists' observations to sustainable biotechnology and precision delivery.