Finding an industry partner is essential for the commercialization of any antagonist for postharvest biocontrol. Formulation, pilot tests, toxicology tests, and registration of the product are expensive and entail more than most research programs in government laboratories or academia are equipped to handle. Although there are examples of commercialization of biocontrol products for plant diseases control by individual scientists, especially from academia, they generally involve creation of a private company that can generate venture capital. USDA/ARS has developed a number of useful vehicles that allow private industry to commercialize inventions created in government laboratories by working jointly with the government scientists. These include simple Material Transfer Agreements, or
Memorandums of Understanding, which allow private industry the initial exploration of the commercial potential of an invention, or more definitive, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) that specify the role of each party in the commercial development and ownership of the final product. Having a private industry partner warrants closer scrutiny of the economic impact of the disease, importance of the disease to be controlled, and the potential for biocontrol to be competitive with the other control measures in terms of efficacy and cost. A CRADA was essential in the commercialization of BioSave™ by EcoScience Corp., which is based on P. syringae, and Aspire™ by Ecogen-Israel Partnership, Ltd., which is based on C. oleophila. For example, under the CRADA, mass production by fermentation and biomass yield were determined for the P. syringae antagonist first, and EcoSciene Corp. investigated the potential for registration and formulation of the antagonist. This was followed by joint biocontrol feasibility and up-scale tests under simulated commercial conditions, biocontrol tests with various formulations developed by EcoScience Corp., and the pilot test with the final formulation. EcoScience Corp. developed safety data and registered the product. Production, marketing, and quality control were conducted by EcoScience Corp. Also, essential for the success of BioSave was the well-developed distribution of the product, skillful technical assistance, and rigorous quality control. This approach could be used as a model for successful public/private sector cooperation in the commercialization of other antagonists for BCPD (Stack 1998).
The commercial development of Avogreen in South Africa, which contains B. subtillis and is applied in the field for the control of postharvest diseases of avocado, followed a slightly different path (L. Korsten, personal communication). Once registered, the approach was "to make the system work in the hands of the farmer." First, growers tested the product on a limited scale and were encouraged to integrate the product with existing copper sprays. By slowly phasing in biocontrol, growers gained confidence in the product. They were provided with technical support to calculate dosages, and develop suitable spray schedules adjusted for their spray equipment, cultivars used, age, and history of their orchards and disease profiles. Different formulations were developed to adapt biocontrol to different mixing systems, and for integration with existing chemicals and application methods. Application guidelines were subsequently developed for all possible application systems and for different customer needs. The wettable carrier was found to be more desirable from a production point of view because it sustained excellent cell and biomass densities, had acceptable shelf life, and was more economical. Rigorous quality control has been an integral part throughout the development of this product.
Marketing biological control products requires extensive knowledge in the fields of biological- and integrated control, production systems, and microbial ecosystems. The effectiveness of implementing biocontrol alone or in integrated systems will largely depend on knowledge of the product, thorough understanding of its complexity, and transferring this knowledge to the market place. These aspects are often neglected in the commercialization of biocontrol.
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