Coming together is a Beginning. Staying together is Progress. Working together is Success.
About This Project
by Danielle Rock – Scientist at Invaio
Ingenuity, Innovation, Initiative… But there’s no ‘i’ in Team!
BUGS WITHIN THE BUGS: The initial research phase was very fast paced and exciting. The idea that sparked Invaio was a shift in agricultural strategy that focused on disrupting or depriving the insect pests of their source of nutrition by wiping out the bacteria inside them. Not targeting the bug, but “the bugs inside the bug”. Using this new approach, we were able to find many different actives ranging from small molecules to biologicals that could control insect pests in a novel way. At that point, we recognized that not only had science advanced to the point where better ways of pest control were possible, but we had compiled a team of people who could make it a reality.
…this is our origin story.
FINESSE VS. FORCE: In successful groups there are checks and balances, complementary skills and diverse backgrounds. Our team checks off these boxes. We work hard to intertwine our strengths with each other. At Invaio, team members show incredible grit and perseverance and inspire others to reach new levels. Our incredibly bright team thrives on explaining their ideas to others. The industry experts that have joined the team have introduced exciting practices challenging us to think differently. But these experts not only listen to young scientists – they listen carefully and value their opinions. This shared passion and mutual respect has created a culture where doing whatever it takes comes naturally and finding a way to reach a goal, regardless of its hurtles, is the norm for us at Invaio.
THE PERFECT STORM: Our first break-through came in the form of a somewhat surprising collaboration. This collaboration was with a pair of engineers whose delivery system complemented the company’s early discoveries of the “bugs inside the bugs”. A bug that has stirred up a lot of problems in the agricultural industry is the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). This insect moves Candidaus Liberibacter (CLas), a type if bacteria, from tree to tree causing the spread of a disease called Huanglongbing (HLB). This disease is commonly referred to as ‘Citrus Greening’. Since 2005, the FL citrus industry has been devastated by the citrus greening (CG) disease. CG has reduced yield by nearly half, to 74 million orange boxes produced in 2019. The infection causes loss of 40% of a tree‘s fruit, and cuts in half the tree‘s life span, as compared to 2005 levels. The disease has cut the number of citrus producing acres by 1/3. Growers have set in place costly tree care regimens to slow down bacterial disease, for which there is presently no cure. Today, the Florida citrus industry remains the second largest employer in the state supporting 45,000 workers for an industry with a value $9 billion.
POTENTIAL SOLUTION: Under normal circumstances, it takes 10 years to develop and take an active to market. But in this case, 10 years will not suffice. It’ll be too late. When Invaio’s Head of R&D first spoke to our team about HLB, he referred to it as “the perfect storm”. With bacteria killing experience, unique delivery options in the works, and an agile team with a “make it happen” mentality – it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
The prospect was great but the path to success was daunting. When the team learned about the project we had 8 months from its initiation to the inaugural set of field trials. We were skeptical, but inherently dynamic in our response. We rolled with the punches and challenged each other to rise to the occasion.
“What you have to understand is the value in Invaio is not your AI or even your injection system. This project is only one example of what you can do. The fact that you’ve gone so far so fast just shows how good you guys are. You are willing to do whatever it takes.” – Tom Minter, President, Florida Pesticide Research Inc., Oviedo, FL
MAKING IT HAPPEN: Our initial goal was not to get the best solution right away, but a better solution we could continue to refine and build off of, and that would immediately be more sustainable than the incumbent technology. The project is on-going. We have made plenty of mistakes along the way and will continue to learn.
Florida Citrus has been decimated by this vector borne bacteria stumping growth. Answers have been few and far between. At Invaio, we’ve taken a different approach. We’ve decided to better understand the root of the problem, then introduce targeted solutions to the industry ready to rejuvenate – to rebuild with resilience. We’re not one product, nor one delivery system, or even one solution. We are an agile team of hardworking, collaborative people fearlessly taking on some of the globe’s most pressing problems and creating cutting edge solutions.
Article by: Danielle Rock, Scientist at Invaio