Field Trial Updates: Getting Ready for Primetime

August 20, 2020

By: Mick Messman, Chief Commercial Officer

One of my favorite parts about developing products for the ag industry is the chance get out in the field and see them in action.  It reminds me of my time spent on the family farm and the excitement that comes with new technology, and seeing it work in the “real world.” Successful field trials are a key part of product development for any ag company to make sure a product will actually work for farmers. GreenLight Biosciences has been testing our first product, expected to be launched in 2022, for combatting the highly-destructive Colorado potato beetle in field trials across the country.

In July, I had the chance to visit our trial location in Wisconsin. A lot of our most intensive testing is being done in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison because Wisconsin potato growers have to manage some of the toughest CPB infestations in the world and the University of Wisconsin has deep expertise in the area.

After nearly two years of robust study in Wisconsin, I’m happy to report that the product looks to be highly effective in controlling CPB. This year’s trials focused on locking in the commercial product recommendations and testing it in a grower standard program. The product performed extremely well in some tough weather conditions. Dr. Russell Groves, professor of entomology at the University of Wisconsin and one of the world’s leading experts on the potato beetle, said that the results yielded a promising solution to the challenges farmers face in controlling Colorado Potato Beetle infestations.

The beauty of RNA-based products, like GreenLight’s, is they target harmful pests while protecting beneficial insects and preserving the environment because RNA is a natural biological substance that is transient in the environment – you don’t really have to worry about impact on soil or water or residues.  And we are confirming all this with the field trials and lab studies. RNAi works by essentially scrambling a pest’s gene expression, weakening it through a natural process without harming anything else. Based on these initial successes both in the field and in sophisticated lab-based safety testing, we will submit our breakthrough product to the EPA for regulatory approval shortly.

But our work is hardly over. Now that we are at this late stage development, we need to put on the final touches to get the product ready for primetime. It’s one thing to prove that the product works as designed. The next step is to continue ensuring that it can be commercially formulated, packaged, and perform for farmers in the ways that they farm so that they are confident it will work for them when purchasing the product.  For example, demonstrating that the product can be mixed with other active ingredients, handle the harsh weather conditions that mother nature throws at us and be versatile enough to be used from the Pacific Northwest to the Northeastern United States.

We are now finishing the 2020 trials and putting together the protocols and programs for 2021 to further test these commercialization requirements. And early trials are showing great promise for success.

As we’ve conducted these trials, I’ve met with a variety of farmers to better understand their needs and help them understand the targeted nature of our technology and its safety to both farm workers and their crop. I’ve found their appetite for new technologies like ours is very high. And their confidence levels in our solution continues to increase as we demonstrate how it performs and meets industry standards.

The finish line for a safe, effective Colorado Potato Beetle solution is getting close. We are more excited than ever to deliver the first topically applied RNA-based product to farmers who need new solutions.