SFU + Terramera helping farmers grow more food with less pesticides

1 min read
July 14, 2020

On June 17, we awarded $1.2M through the Ignite Program to four B.C.-based research projects that are creating technologies that solve real-world problems. One of the projects is a collaboration between Simon Fraser University's Dr. Martin Ester and Terramera. They received $300,000 to commercialize their technology which is helping farmers grow more food with less pesticides.

In agriculture, farmers rely on pesticides to control pests and protect their crops. However, these chemicals have a negative environmental impact, contaminating groundwater and freshwater supplies after rain falls on the plants and washes the pesticides off. Using chemistry, biology and computer science, this consortium is designing new, more effective ways to grow more food with less chemicals, reduce overall chemical use, and ensure farmers throughout the world can get higher yields with fewer pests.

This project will also identify new methods to manage pests in agricultural settings, and the underlying technology will be applicable in many other fields, including medicine. “I love applying ingenuity and intellect to find clever solutions to wicked problems,” says Dr. Steve Slater, Terramera’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.

Together with the creativity and expertise of Dr. Martin Ester, Professor in the School of Computing Science, the Innovate BC Ignite funding will be used to develop new algorithms that aid computational chemistry to design new fungicide formulations.

"We are excited to be able to collaborate with local industry to advance the discovery of novel, organic pesticides, which will enable more environmentally friendly food prediction in Canada and in the world,” says Dr. Ester. “On the research side, the project raises new challenges in machine learning, image analysis, and robotics, which we will investigate with our students."

The newly generated technology will be commercialized by Terramera while simultaneously training young engineers in machine learning techniques. This project utilizes Terramera’s Actigate technology which has been recognized across the globe.

“Innovation drives the economy. If applied properly, it permits us to do more with less, maximize new societal and environmental benefits, minimize negative societal and environmental impacts, and create whole new economic fields,” says Dr. Slater.

Are you looking for funding to commercialize your research project? The deadline to submit a Letter of Intent for the next round of Ignite funding is August 10, 2020. Learn more about the program here.

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