AgTech firms receive grants to achieve commercialization milestones

Businesses will restart work halted by COVID-19 covers local news in Yolo County, California ...

Two Davis agtech firms are breathing a little easier this week after receiving a grant of $25,000 each to help them reach commercialization milestones.

Pheronym and FloraPulse, both pre-commercial agtech companies, will use the funds to continue commercialization work which the COVID-19 health crisis had forced them to postpone or cancel.

Agtech is broadly defined as the application of technology — especially advanced biologics, software and hardware — to agriculture.

Pheronym is a pioneer in the use of nematode pheromones to control both beneficial and plant-parasitic nematodes, or microscopic roundworms, that can dramatically affect plant health. The $25,000 grant allows Pheronym to hire a technician to help prepare for the re-start of field trials for their first product as well as to start laboratory and greenhouse testing on a second line of new pheromone-based products. Keep Reading

Amid Covid-19 uncertainty, ag-tech startups have harder time gaining traction

By   – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal


Being designated an essential industry hasn’t kept the founders of Pheronym from encountering work-stopping disruptions.

“We were allowed to keep working, but the people we work with aren’t,” said co-founder Karl Cameron Schiller.

Pheronym is a Davis-based agricultural technology startup working to develop pest-control products based around its research on pheromones that control tiny worms in the soil called nematodes.


Company founders CEO Fatma Kaplan and Schiller were preparing to bring their products to market next year.

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Pheronym Company Announced as Ray of Hope Prize® Finalist

Sustainable pest control using nematode pheromones for crop protection in the running for $100,000 prize.

DAVIS, CA, May 8, 2020 Pheronym is pleased to announce that it has been recognized as a finalist in the Ray of Hope Prize®, a $100,000 prize competition presented by the Biomimicry Institute. Pheronym uses a new kind of pheromone for eco-friendly, agricultural pest control, increasing crop yield and food production. Pheronym’s first product, Nemastim, makes beneficial nematodes more effective for insect pest control in the soil. 

Nemastim makes beneficial nematodes (Steinernema feltiae and Steinernema carpocapsae) better biocontrol agents and expands their effective temperature range down to 15℃, making them an even more effective solution today and in the future. The beneficial nematodes move faster, go deeper in the soil, and infect in 3X greater numbers. The benefits of this approach, including enhanced efficacy, reduced costs, and increased sustainability, are exactly the things that our agricultural customers are asking for and consumers of produce are demanding.

“As the world searches for more environmentally friendly crop protection solutions, Pheronym presents an elegant solution,” said Jared Yarnall-Schane, Entrepreneurship Director, Biomimicry Institute. “By emulating nematodes’ natural communication methods, pheromones, they increase efficiency and efficacy. This makes an organic form of pest control cost-competitive with synthetic alternatives.”

Pheronym is one of the nine companies, out of 190 applications spanning 42 countries, in the running for the $100,000 prize, which will help the winning company accelerate their path to commercial success. The Biomimicry Institute’s expert selection committee will decide which nature-inspired startup will take home the prize in the fall of 2020. 

Pheronym’s founding team offers complimentary skill sets: Mr. Karl Schiller, COO, is an economist and Dr. Fatma Kaplan, CEO is a scientist, giving them the necessary breadth of knowledge to bring a novel biological technology like Nemastim to market. Mr. Schiller’s business expertise helps the team rapidly organize and achieve legal and regulatory milestones while Dr. Kaplan focuses on executing her vision to achieve technical milestones and raise funds. 

Dr. Kaplan has a Ph.D. in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology and postdoctoral training in Natural Product Chemistry with a focus on isolating biologically active compounds. She discovered the first sex pheromone of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which was published in Nature in 2008. Then she discovered that pheromones regulate other behaviors in both plant parasitic and beneficial nematodes. Dr. Kaplan and Mr. Schiller conducted the first agricultural biocontrol experiment in Space at the International Space Station in 2020. Together they co-founded Pheronym to bring nematode pheromone technology to the market and believe that this technology will provide effective, pollinator/bee-friendly, non-toxic pest control for farmers and gardeners. Studies on nematode pheromones’ efficacy, infectivity and temperature range can be found here.

“The Ray of Hope prize committee’s recognition of our bio-inspired technology validates our belief that nature holds the keys to future agricultural innovations,” said Mr. Schiller founder of Pheronym. 


To learn more about Pheronym, visit For more information about the Biomimicry Institute and Ray of Hope Prize, visit



Award-winning Pheronym is an ag-biotech pest management company that enables sustainable farming through its novel platform of nematode pheromones. Based in Merritt Island, Florida and Davis, California, the company uses a new pheromone to control plant-parasitic nematodes (microscopic roundworms) in an eco-friendly way and enhances beneficial nematodes’ efficacy to eliminate pest insects.


The Biomimicry Institute is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in 2006 that empowers people to seek nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet. To advance the solution process, the Institute offers, a free online tool that contains strategies found in nature and examples of ways they are used in design. It also hosts a Biomimicry Global Design Challenge and Youth Design Challenge to support project-based education; a Biomimicry Launchpad program and Ray of Hope Prize® for entrepreneurship to bring designs to market; and connects innovators through the Global Biomimicry Network.

Media Contact:

Name: Karl C. Schiller
Phone: 352-283-6967