We caught up with the Founders and CEOs of Enko and Provivi, to see how they’ve grown since their first appearance with us as early-stage start-ups. They share their key milestones and reveal what’s next for their companies as they navigate scale-up and global expansion.
Can you tell us about your journey as an early-stage start-up up to your recent success? What have been the key milestones?
Pedro Coelho, Co-Founder & CEO, PROVIVI: “This year has been made up of numerous milestones as we continue our global efforts for expansion. We received EU regulatory approvals for active ingredients targeting the European grapevine moth (Lobesia botrana) and oriental fruit moth (Grapholita molesta) and built meaningful partnerships with fermentation toller EW Biotech, Syngenta, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the latter of which will focus on our growth in Africa and Asia. In addition, we won three Telly Awards for our “Provivi Farmers” video campaign that depicts the timeless story of farmers handling pests that threaten their crops. 2021 also saw three key appointments for Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and President of the Americas as we ramp up business development and market penetration in the Latin America agribusiness.”
Jacqueline Heard, Founder & CEO, ENKO: “We’ve been busy for the last four years, though we only emerged from stealth mode last year! Our mission is to discover and design crop health solutions with intention. Enko’s 2021 field season provided proof that applying successful pharma discovery technology to agriculture has industry-changing implications for innovation pipelines. We are excited to see programs from our pipeline of over 30 targets make progress from discovery into development: our technology platform remains on track to deliver active ingredients that are faster to market, lower cost to discover, and resistance-busting. After purchasing a 50,000 sqft R&D facility in 2020 to expand our capacity, Enko has announced multiple R&D partnerships this year, including with Syngenta, Bayer, and Nufarm, designed to bring promising molecules to growers sooner.
In addition to Enko’s technical advancements, we recognize that systems-level change is only possible when the entire value chain is on board, and consumers are a critical player in global agricultural systems. Addressing consumers directly, we published an op-ed in Fast Company in July pointing out that our food security can’t be assumed and highlighting the types of transformative technologies from healthcare that are essential for ag to keep pace with a changing planet. Convincing consumers that pesticides can be safe and are essential to our global food system is a challenge we’ve started to take on in 2021, and we won’t shy away from that narrative in 2022.”
What motivates you as an innovator to drive forward change within the ag industry?
PC: “We have a clear sense of purpose and mission. We exist to bring the proven benefits of pheromones to all farmers, and in doing so, change agriculture and better our environment one acre at a time, one farmer every day. A clear thesis drives us: we believe pheromones are a must-have foundational product, just as seeds and fertilizers. We combine this motivation with our vision to create a leading company in global insect control.”
JH: “Agriculture has existed for at least 10,000 years, but growers are in dire need of new tools to help them keep pace with an evolving planet. Most recently, the pandemic laid bare the fragility of many of our systems—our global food supply chains included. Crop health is the first step in stabilizing supply chains because pests, superweeds, and disease weaken crops and compete for valuable resources. As a scientist, investor, and entrepreneur, I’ve dedicated my entire career to developing and enabling transformative technologies to improve global food systems.”
What role do partnerships and collaboration play in your business strategy?
PC: “We have enjoyed a lot of success in collaborations. We collaborated upstream with various technology partners enhancing our intellectual property to strengthen our position as the premier supplier of affordable pheromones. In addition, we executed a couple of very successful partnerships downstream, helping Provivi scale up its access to the market by leveraging the capabilities of our commercial partners. One commercial partnership that has been made public is our collaborative efforts with Syngenta towards launching a rice stem borer product in Indonesia in 2022. Earlier this year, we also began a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result of their investment in Provivi, we are rolling out our products in Kenya, India, and Bangladesh to smallholder farmers. In general, we’re very pragmatic. If there is a potential opportunity, we’re willing to engage in creating value and accelerating Provivi’s path towards our mission.”
JH: “While we are working on bringing Enko-branded products to market in addition to partnering, we recognize that collaboration is key to systems-level change. Our partnerships with the largest industry players are establishing a new R&D model for agrochemicals through a target-based approach to discovery. Enko brings our unique target-based discovery approach while our partners bring decades of experience building products around active ingredients and global distribution networks. Over 80% of the total pesticide market is composed of off-patent products, and 22 active ingredients in crop protection products are going off patent by 2030, underscoring the need for fresh innovation. These partnerships directly address that need with new chemistries and more access.
We are also looking forward to developing more creative routes to market and partnering across the value chain. When we think about the future of Ag, we see the imperativeness of integrating emerging technologies and unique capabilities from the lab to the field to consumers’ plates.”
PC: “We are entering the following year with great speed and momentum with our recent announcements of key regulatory approvals, strategic partnerships, and appointments in leadership. We’re very excited and now have the capabilities to scale up exponentially and achieve a very rewarding 2022. Our product in Mexico has been very successful, having received excellent feedback from the corn farmers treating their crops to fight fall armyworm (FAW). We’re looking forward to our soft launch in Brazil for our Pherogen™ FAW product later this year, as well as in Kenya next year. 2022 will also see our rice stem borer product launch in Indonesia and scaling the sale of our active ingredients in Europe. The company continues to expand rapidly, developing various new capabilities and becoming an integrated solutions provider to farmers that pioneer the green IPM (integrated pest management) concept with pheromones as its cornerstone.”
JH: “We’re heading into 2022 with great momentum. We’ll continue to solidify our lead in Ag in leveraging DNA-encoded libraries and machine learning for target-based discovery, while also growing our development capabilities to bring Enko-branded products to market. Stay tuned!”
Jacqueline and Pedro will be speaking on the panel ‘The New Playbook for Managing Pests: From Research to Commercialization’ on March 23, 2022, as the summit will reunite the agri-food community for the first time in three years, live in San Francisco. See outline program at: www.worldagritechusa.com/agenda