Seed World

Enko, Nufarm Partner on Novel Crop Health Molecules

Enko, the crop health company, and agrochemical company Nufarm announced their partnership to develop novel chemistries and expand the supply chain of critical new herbicide solutions in Australia, the U.S. and Europe.

Ecological conditions, worsened by climate change, are threatening popular crops like coffee, oranges and bananas. Extreme heat, drought, resilient superweeds and devastating diseases are creating an increasingly vulnerable reality for farmers and the food system at large. For commodity crops like grains and soybeans, these risks create uncertainty for the many supply chains that rely on them.

To safeguard crops struggling against these emerging dangers, growers are relying on herbicides that have not changed much in the past few decades. 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. This partnership will directly address that need with new chemistries and more access. Enko and Nufarm will be trialing the effectiveness of combining Enko’s leading herbicide candidate with Nufarm’s products to create unique, safe chemical formulations.

“Nowadays, most agrochemical companies are largely selling the same molecules. Both farmers and suppliers need new herbicide options to meet urgent challenges—issues that affect not just our favorite breakfast food items, but also crops that are essential to food security and economic prosperity across the world,” said Enko CEO, Jacqueline Heard. “Enko partnered with Nufarm because we share a vision for sustainable agriculture and each has unique strengths. Through Nufarm’s strong market access and customer knowledge, we can bring our target-based crop health products to more growers worldwide. ”

Enko’s discovery process for new crop health molecules delivers chemical starting points in months compared to the years it takes for legacy R&D approaches. With machine learning, Enko screens its chemical library of more than 140 billion molecules—a chemical space 15,000 times larger than what other companies can access—to find novel and unexpected product candidates at a scale that would otherwise be impossible. The pharmaceutical industry’s drug discovery technique has relied upon these DNA-encoded libraries for years. Enko is the first to create a library specifically designed for agriculture. Leveraging this technology alongside Nufarm will create herbicides with multiple modes of action that combat resistant weeds, broaden use cases and remain effective for farmers longer.

“As global challenges continue to evolve and intensify, the value of agriculture becomes undeniably clear. The ongoing impacts of issues such as climate change and population growth require new solutions that deliver sustainable feedstocks, without placing additional pressure on the natural environment and our finite resources,” said Greg Hunt, Managing Director and CEO of Nufarm. “Nufarm has a long history of innovation and an unwavering commitment to delivering solutions tailored to the specific needs of farmers, having recently developed a global oilseed, Omega-3 and advanced biofuel technology platform. As we grow, we’re thrilled to have a like-minded partner in Enko and the investment we have made in Enko will help advance new technologies and innovation within the agricultural supply chain.” 

The partnership will utilize Enko’s discovery and development capabilities to advance weed control solutions for the most problematic global superweeds. While working in parallel the teams will expedite the development process of lead herbicide candidates.