ISCA Global CEO Agenor Mafra-Neto inspects corn growing in the Rio Verde, Goiás, Brazil.

Merger alert: Newly born ISCA Global doubles down on insect pheromone tech

October 28, 2019

ISCA Global has been formed through the merger of ISCA Technologies (US), ISCA Tecnologias (Brazil) and ATGC Biotech (India) to bring together 25 years of research and development into insect control products that are less harmful to the environment.

ISCA products work by using pheromones and other naturally-occurring compounds called semiochemicals that manipulate the behavior of certain insect species before they become pests. These products prevent specific insects from mating, repelling them from crops, or attracting them to minuscule amounts of killing agents — all while leaving honeybees or other wildlife unharmed. ISCA Global also is developing products to control mosquitoes and ticks that spread disease.

“This new, extraordinary partnership allows us to bring the next generation of insect control to market on a global scale,” said Dr. Agenor Mafra-Neto, CEO of ISCA Global and an  entomologist and chemical ecologist, in a statement sent to AFN. “Consumers want cleaner food and governments all over the world are mandating reductions in the use of conventional pesticides. Our products meet this need. They control devastating pests but avoid pest resistance and have minimal impact on the environment by minimizing the contamination of soil and water.”

Foiling the fall army worm

Mafra-Neto’s newly born company offers products that counter infestations of the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda); the European grapevine moth (Lobesia botrana); the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta);  the corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea); the cotton boll moth (Helicoverpa armigera); the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosa); the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar); the pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella); the Carob moth (Ectomyelois ceratoniae); Tephritidae fruit flies; and many others.

Folded into the merger is ISCA Technologies, company based in Riverside, California, that has spent over 20 years developing, testing, and marketing formulations and application methods; farmers of row crops (e.g. corn, soy, cotton) and specialty crops (e.g. fruits) can use these to reduce or eliminate the need for repeated insecticide applications.


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The overuse of insecticides has come under increasing scientific and media scrutiny. Earlier this year, the journal Biological Conservation published a study that swiftly caught and held the attention of global newsrooms. It was titled “Worldwide decline of the entofauna: A review of its drivers,” and its top-line findings were stark, suggesting 40 percent of all insect species are in decline, with many en route to extinction within decades. Habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture, the study claimed, “is the main driver.” Agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change were also considered “additional causes,” with insecticides accused of collateral damage of non-target species. The study’s recommendation: “A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide,” the study contended: “In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters in both agricultural and urban environments.”

ISCA’s pheromones are one alternative that is gaining currency. Formulations and application methods have resulted in products suitable for rainy and desert climates. These range from application techniques by hand on some of the smallest farms in the world, to aircraft application on some of the largest farms in the world, in Brazil; already, ISCA products are providing crop protection in 30 countries across all geographies and climates. The versatility of formulations coupled with efforts to reduce manufacturing costs has made these new generation insect control products ready for wide adoption.

Falling costs of pheromones

Over the last 10 years, ATGC (ISCA Systems), another company in the merger, has capitalized on the brainpower of Indian scientists with decades of experience in agricultural and pharmaceutical chemistry. The company has scaled complex pheromone production and other semiochemical syntheses with innovations in chemistry and forging key manufacturing partnerships. This has driven the cost of pheromone-based pest control solutions down, the company claims, and has made them cost-competitive with conventional pesticides. These green solutions, previously cost-prohibitive, are now accessible to all farmers. (A new manufacturing facility and Center of Excellence has recently been completed in Hyderabad.)

“Our synthetic processes and economies of scale will not only drastically reduce pheromone cost to the level needed for pest management in corn, soybean, cotton and many more crops, but will also give ISCA Global and partners the reliable and dedicated semiochemical supply chain needed to meet grower demands,” said Dr. Markandeya Gorantla, chief technical officer of ISCA Global.

ISCA Brazil has been a hub of manufacturing, field testing and market development. Through a partnership with a major agricultural supply player, ISCA Brazil sold its first product for row crops for distribution on large Brazilian farms. It was through that partnership that Dr. Mafra-Neto met Jean-Pierre Princen who joined the ISCA team over three years ago. In addition to providing support to global sales, Mr. Princen will be Chairman of the ISCA Global Board playing a key advisory role. Mr. Princen brings his experience with major agriculture technology companies as a global CEO & Strategist and closely follows current crop protection practices and technologies.

“The breadth of field-demonstrated semiochemical based solutions combined with extremely cost-competitive capabilities put ISCA at the forefront of the next generation of insect control globally,” Princen said. “I believe semiochemical-based solutions, proven efficient for decades in high-value specialty crops, will now be affordable as part of any Integrated Insect Management program (IPM) for all types of crops and agricultural practices, both conventional and organic.”

Pairing up with NATCO Pharma

ISCA Global is also joining hands with NATCO Pharma, based in India, as a partner in the manufacturing of niche chemistries. With its skills in complex chemistries and a record of bringing products at affordable prices across geographies in the pharmacy sector, NATCO has recently forayed into the Crop Health Sciences sector. NATCO’s strategic partnership with ISCA Global allows for capital improvements, among other needs. This partnership creates synergies across the value chain, guaranteeing dedicated supply chains at the lowest costs, ISCA Global claims.

“NATCO has always pursued a mission to provide affordable medicines to people at large. I am excited to partner with ISCA Global in their endeavor to bring a similar philosophy of affordable, efficient, and sustainable semiochemical solutions to growers everywhere” said Rajeev Nannapaneni, vice-chairman & CEO of NATCO Pharma Limited.

What are your thoughts on the use of pheromones in bio-control? Let us know. Drop me a note at [email protected]

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