Team: Joshua James, Edward Goyette and Joseph Falkinham
Leone BioVentures is developing a new type of pesticide the company hopes will help save banana crops around the world. James says there are a lot of pesticides formulated to target black Sigatoka, a fungus that spreads quickly and can wipe out entire crops. But the disease has become resistant to some treatments.
Leone bills its product as another option for farmers, but one that’s naturally occurring and thus cleaner and safer. The pesticide is produced naturally by a bacterium that can be found in some soils. The startup hopes to learn how to grow this bacterium, harvest the pesticide, distill it down and then spread it on crops.
For now, the company is focusing on the banana industry because of the widespread issues caused by black Sigatoka. “But we know it works against many, many, many types of fungus that are negatively affecting agriculture right now,” James said.
Leone has been around for five years but recently shifted its strategy. The company is still in the research and development phase, so it is likely years away from approval for commercial use.