Enko and Nufarm: Expanding Access to New Herbicide Solutions
By Jacqueline Heard, CEO and founder

October 7, 2021

Image credit: Tim Llewellyn

Today, we announced that Enko and Australian agrochemical company Nufarm are partnering on new chemistries that will give farmers around the world better tools to protect their crops from weeds.

We will leverage Enko’s discovery and development capabilities to identify new chemical solutions, and trial combining Enko’s leading herbicide candidate with Nufarm’s products to create novel and safe chemical formulations. 

Our shared goal is to create herbicides with multiple modes of action that stay effective for longer but require less application, less often. Farmers urgently need this innovation: over 80% of pesticides on the market today are off-patent, and 22 more active ingredients in crop protection products will go off patent by 2030. While off-patent molecules offer more channels and better prices for farmers, there's a tradeoff. Most agrochemical companies are selling the same molecules—many of which lead to resistance problems.

Today’s news also marks another international partnership for Enko. Nufarm’s deep ties in Australia will ultimately help us expand the supply chain of herbicide solutions across Australia, the U.S. and Europe.

Australian growers’ challenges reflect the world’s

The state of farming in Australia offers a window into the headwinds growers face globally, and illustrates why this kind of innovation is so important.

Recent research shows Australia may have hit peak acreage for growing crops, which would mean there is no additional land on which to plant–a challenge farmers in other regions face too. Climate change presents new and worsening threats to existing farmland, including wildfires, droughts, devastating diseases and resistant superweeds. At the same time, farmers are the key to an immensely complex and fragile global food supply chain upon which a growing population depends.

In other words, as cropland becomes more scarce and growing gets more difficult, we will rely on farmers to produce more than ever before.

Enko’s Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Stephen Powles shared his unique perspective on what this means. A renowned plant scientist, Dr. Powles is also a professor emeritus at the University of Western Australia and a farmer in that region. He sees these challenges up close every day. 

Dr. Powles reiterated that “we must not sacrifice our remaining untouched forests and other natural landscapes. Rather, we need to lift productivity on our existing precious crop land. This means controlling yield-robbing pests and diseases–which requires new, highly effective and environmentally safe crop protection chemicals.”

Enko’s discovery process is designed to find those chemicals much faster than traditional industry approaches. Time is of the essence: the effects of climate change are worsening quickly, including opening up more regions to invasive weeds.

Dr. Powles emphasized the urgency of getting farmers new tools to combat this in his home state of Western Australia, which is the country’s biggest grain producer. Grain exports generate more than $4 billion for the state’s economy each year. “We export 95% of our grain to help feed the world,” he says. “Facing climate change, farmers need new technologies that can sustain and increase our production to help feed the growing global population.”

Enko is the first company to create a DNA-encoded library screening platform and analysis toolkit specifically designed for agriculture, which allows us to discover and develop chemistries for this purpose. With Nufarm’s support, we will use this technology to create herbicides with multiple modes of action that combat resistant weeds, broaden use cases and work for longer. The partnership will also open up more channels for farmers to access new chemistries. 

Dr. Powles put it well: “Enko is discovering new chemicals, while Nufarm’s global reach, distribution and links with the world’s farmers can put this vitally needed new technology in their hands.”