NC Startup ‘Minting’ All-Natural Herbicides

Some farmers are struggling. Weeds that they used to control with trusted herbicides have now grown resistant. Organic farmers have never had access to tools they could use to effectively fight back certain weed pressure. But a startup in North Carolina says they have the answer for both. Daniel Pepitone is founder and COO of Harpe Bio Herbicide.

“We’re just using nature’s chemistry instead of something from a lab or a bench. So we’ve actually created a series of portfolio of different pre-emergent post burndown desiccation products, all based on plant extracts, and it’s really the compounds, the molecules, the chemistry that you find inside those plant extracts. Then when we formulate mixing different ways, we get really great herbicidal activity.”

Pepitone told SFN this might be the all-natural answer that organic farmers have been looking for.

“If you’re an organic grower today. You don’t have all the conventional tools, the herbicides that other growers have. So they really need new tools, new technology to really advance their production. So we’re offering that to those growers.”

But it also meets the needs of conventional growers looking for an effective tool against weeds that have adapted.

“Hundreds of millions of acres really utilize a series of synthetic chemistries that unfortunately aren’t just quite working the way they used to anymore. They’re challenged by weed resistance as Mother Nature has decided to adapt in different ways to prevent those chemistries from killing weeds. And that’s really a great opportunity in the market to support those farmers, combining our products to Harpe, natural products or bio-rational combinations with those synthetic chemistries to overcome those weed resistance challenges really reset the efficacy of really wonderful technology to support those farmers, control the weeds that they need to, and continue to produce the food that they do for us each and every day.”

Pepitone says the secret is a natural mint extract that’s proving very safe and effective in trials.

“There’s potential ways to reduce the total amount you need in terms of growers are having to spray multiple times now to get that same efficacy or potentially get that same efficacy. How do we go back to that one spray replacing certain areas of things aren’t working or they’re deemed to be not safe for consumption on the products that they use. But again, it’s all about we take that grower mindset, figure out the ways that we can really enhance the current tools that they have, get the efficacy levels back to where they were, and we’re doing that every day in the greenhouse in our field trials that we shared with you, and give them the tools that they need to get their jobs done.”

Harpe won the BioAgTech Innovator Award at the recent BioAgTech World Congress. Pepitone expects the products to be commercially available in a couple of years.