The key to farming on Mars might be breeding parasitic space worms

The parasitic space worms are coming, and they’re ready to kill.

No crop dusting in space

Without proper pest control, farmers on Earth risk losing up to 80 percent of their crops. Needless to say, that kind of bad harvest could prove devastating for a developing space colony. Clearly, some form of pest control is sensible to investigate. Since air quality is critical in space (being a limited resource, and it not being quite so easy to open a window to get clean air), it would also make sense if pest control methods were biological, non-toxic ones. Keep Reading

Pheronym’s amazing 6 week-journey at the NSF I-Corps teams program

The challenges, up and downs, surprising discoveries, and meeting amazing people on the way to completing 100 customer discovery interviews.

Image for postPheronym is developing pheromones from microscopic roundworms, nematodes, to control agricultural pests; nematodes, and insects. Our end users are growers, conventional and organic farmers. Our task was very simple: “Talk to 100 growers to understand their pain points with respect to difficult pests”. Traditionally, at I-corps participants get out of the building or go to conferences to meet people for in-person interviews. We could easily go to a few grower conferences and a couple of industry conferences and maybe meet 20- 25 people at each conference. How hard could it be talking to 100 growers? Keep reading!

Pheronym Granted Patent for Ag Biocontrol Breakthrough Technology

Nematode Pheromone Extract Dramatically Increases Efficacy of Nematode Dispersal for Crop Biocontrol

DAVIS, California – August 24, 2020– Pheronym, an Ag-biotech pest control company, has been granted its patent for its breakthrough in creating a way to increase the effectiveness of Nematodes’ ability to control pest insects, naturally, in agriculture.   The patent is listed as “Nematode dispersant composition and method” and is US patent number: US 10,736,326 B2.”

While nematodes (microscopic roundworms) are regularly used in pest control, commercially available nematodes do not disperse as well as they could when they are applied to a field. This is because they have lost their pheromone signal to hunt for new prey. Since the insect target is mobile, the nematodes need to be actively moving and hunting for a new insect host. Pheronym’s patent directly impacts this problem – significantly improving the mobility and aggressiveness of the nematodes making them more effective in killing pests.   It also expands their effective temperature range.

Dr. Fatma Kaplan, Inventor

“It’s great to have additional validation on our breakthrough,” said Dr. Fatma Kaplan, CEO of Pheronym.  “The recognition of our IP along with four peer-reviewed studies on its effectiveness bring us another step closer to broad commercialization of this natural approach to pest control that will be better for people and our planet. ”

Space, The Final Frontier – For Nematodes

Pheronym’s Fourth Peer-Reviewed Study Contains Surprising Findings for Interstellar Agriculture and Earth

DAVIS, CA, UNITED STATES, August 10, 2020 — Pheronym, an ag-biotech pest control company, announced today the results of their fourth peer-reviewed study, this one focused on the results of their collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory) and USDA-ARS during onboard experiments conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) between December 2019 and January 2020.  The study, published in Nature Partner Journal/npj Microgravity, highlights that nematodes successfully emerged from consumed insect host cadavers, moved through soil, found and infected bait-insects in a manner equivalent to Earth controls. However, nematodes that developed entirely in space, from the egg stage, died upon return to Earth, unlike controls in microgravity and on Earth.

The research, led by Dr. Fatma Kaplan, focused on the beneficial nematodes’ dispersal, foraging, infectivity, and pheromone production in microgravity.

“This agricultural biocontrol experiment in space gives insight to long-term space flight for symbiotic organisms, parasite biology, and the potential for sustainable crop protection in space,” said Dr. Fatma Kaplan, CEO of Pheronym.  “It gives us valuable insight on how to keep beneficial nematodes alive and viable for agriculture on other planets.”

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Our technical milestones are recognized by Society of Invertebrate Pathology

We are honored that our technical milestones were selected as Research Highlights in the past two years by the Society of Invertebrate Pathology (SIP), Division of Nematodes.

2020 Research highlight by the SIP Division of Nematodes

The results of the peer-reviewed work are published in Scientific Reports by the Nature publishing group.

2019 Research highlight by the SIP Division of Nematodes

The results of the efficacy trials were peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.

Pheronym at the NSF I-Corps Beat-The-Odd-Boot Camp during COVID-19

Uncovering surprising new insights during customer discovery 

The Beat-The-Odd-Boot Camp was part of our National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant with a focus on entrepreneurial training. Our first job in the Boot Camp was customer discovery for the innovation that we are commercializing.  To do this, we needed to “get out of the building” and conduct in-person interviews with at least 30 potential customers, something that is pretty hard to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we conducted video interviews. In 2017 and 2018, we undertook a broad customer discovery (a total of 50 interviews) with deep dives in 3 segments; greenhouse growers, stone fruit growers, and nut growers. When we started the Boot Camp in May 2020, we thought we already knew our customers, and we were not sure what we could learn. It turns out we learned quite a bit. Keep reading.

Pheronym wins $225,000 NSF grant for commercializing nematode pheromones for eco-friendly pest control in agriculture

Focus is on scaling manufacturing for their patented bio-remediation approach

DAVIS, California – June 9, 2020– Pheronym, a bio-ag-tech pest control company, has received a National Science Foundation Grant (NSF) for its nematode pheromone focused pest control solution. The $225,000 award will help the company bring their patented approach to the market by developing advanced fermentation methods to manufacture its nematode dispersal and infectivity pheromones, which are used to enhance control of agricultural pests. Pheronym has now secured a total of $1,150,000 in research grants over the past two years.  Learn more about the grant details here.

“We continue to move aggressively forward on the path of commercialization,” said Dr. Fatma Kaplan, CEO of Pheronym. “This grant will allow us to focus the necessary resources on a scalable manufacturing process.” Keep reading.