Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency has confirmed its support for agri-technology that can help in the fight against anti-microbial resistance (AMR) by awarding a third grant to FOLIUM Science.
FOLIUM Science has developed unique and patented technology in the form of Guided Biotics ™ that selectively removes unwanted bacteria by harnessing enzymes in the bacteria. The three Innovate UK supported projects will develop the application of Guided Biotics ™ in the agricultural sector in partnership with leading science institutions and technology businesses.
The third grant has just been confirmed as part of a £22 million government investment in new agricultural technology. This latest project aims to identify and control bacterial blight in world crops. For this work, FOLIUM Science will be working in partnership with the John Innes Centre(JIC), the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Rinicom Ltd. The project will develop Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems to detect sites of Xanthomonas and other bacterial infection within a crop and deliver a precise application of FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics ™ as a localised liquid spray. The team aims to develop a prototype for demonstration in a crop production system.
Xanthomonas blight is a significant challenge to sustainable food production, affecting more than 400 species of plants. Once established,the bacteria can infect the entire crop within six weeks resulting in substantial, often devastating losses to crop yields. Staple world food crops such as rice, soybean and cassava have recorded yield losses of between 50% and 75% due to Xanthomonas infection.
Despite the scale of the challenge, current treatment options have had only moderate success.
Xanthomonas infected plants will be treated by precise local spot spray application of Guided Biotics™ delivered precisely and accurately to only those plants identified as carrying the infection. Guided Biotics ™ have proved to be highly effective against bacteria, with up to 6log reduction in bacterial colony forming units (CFUs), are equally effective against bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics yet result in no build up in resistance to their action. They remove only the target pathogen leaving a healthy plant and no residual material.
Rinicom’s UAV system will employ advanced AI driven video analytics and proprietary algorithms to detect, track and classify early signs of Xanthomonas infection in a crop. Using high resolution imaging to identify physiological measures such as foliage colour and plant height, susceptible plants will be located by the UAV within exact GPS coordinates. Once an infection is suspected, analysis can occur within 15 minutes and the Guided Biotics ™ aerosol spot treatment deployed to the infected site.
FOLIUM Science’s CEO Ed Fuchs says “The combination of our Guided Biotics ™ with Rinicom’s state-of-the-art technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of this persistent and damaging bacterial blight. Not only will crop yields improve as a result but Guided Biotics ™ but this technology supports a sustainable environment by reducing the need to use chemicals or antibiotics.We are establishing a new gold standard in environmentally friendly, highly specific crop treatment solutions.”
“We are pleased and honoured to be part of this exciting and challenging project where our AI and video analytics know-how can make positive impact to a global problem”, said Professor Garik Markarian, CEO of Rinicom. “Working with FOLIUM and UEA will ensure the success in establishing UK’s leading role in environmentally friendly crop treatment”
This project is focused on Xanthomonas blight in UK brassica crops and the team will be working with local farm communities to execute field trials.
This third award builds on the two previous Innovate UK grants for Guided Biotics ™ applications.
The first, awarded in April 2018 seeks to develop a treatment spray for use on fresh fruit and vegetable crops. Using FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics ™ technology, and in partnership with the University of East Anglia and the John Innes Centre (JIC), the aim is to disrupt and prevent the formation of Pseudomonas biofilms on plant surfaces. The work will also explore the options for manufacture and commercial scale up of the Guided Biotics ™ treatment.
The second, awarded in September 2018 seeks to demonstrate that FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics ™ can reduce the need to use antibiotics in the production of farmed animals. For this project FOLIUM Science is working in partnership with the University of Bristol, and the Quadram Institute Bioscience to evaluate the effectiveness of Guided Biotics ™ to control specific pathogens and demonstrate superior effectiveness compared to other non-medical interventions.
“Innovate UK has recognised one of the greatest challenges of modern times represented by antimicrobial resistance and the potential contribution of Guided Biotics ™” says Ed Fuchs. “The specificity of our biotechnology allows us to target only those bacteria that are harmful to plant or animal health, leaving the good bacteria intact. The funding from Innovate UK in these three critical areas of challenge will support the development of UK led biotechnology that can be of long-term benefit to the food supply chain.”