FARGO, N.D. — One of the companies getting set to do work in the new Grand Farm says it wants to “unleash the power of natural resistance” against phytophthora root rot — a major disease of soybeans.
Jérôme Boissonneault (pronounced “BWEST-e-no”), is cofounder and vice president of business development for AYOS Diagnostic, a company is based in Quebec, Canada. The company was conceived in 2020 and officially started in 2021.
Boissonneault presented at Cultivate, an ag-tech conference on June 30, 2022, in Fargo. as well as at related events. Cultivate is run by Emerging Prairie, a non-profit that started a Grand Farm demonstration and development farm. The Grand Farm at Cultivate confirmed that it had bought 140 acres as a permanent home, west of Casselton, North Dakota.
Boisseonneault’s background is in “technology and management and consulting, specializing in start-ups.” Boissonneault works on the financing and strategy part of the business, which is connected to a plant scientist. So far, the company has two co-founders and two laboratory workers and has generated less than $100,000 in revenue, working with companies in the Canada, the U.S. and Brazil.
Ayos has been working for the past five years to find a “natural resistance” for photophthora root rot, a major soil-borne disease of soybeans and other crops. Ayos has identified a “specific variance” that allows soybeans to be resistant to phytophthora root rot.
“To overcome it you have to add the resistant genes," Boissonneault said.
The company is “partnering with” a scientist Laval University, which has expertise in phytophthora root rot.
Boissonneault spent 24 hours in a vehicle coming to Fargo for the Cultivate conference, in an effort to appear at the event regardless of serious airline delays in the news. He was listed as a speaker on one of the panels but did not appear on the dais. Still, he said he is pleased to do business with the Emerging Prairie non-profit that birthed the “Grand Farm” ag-tech project.
Ayos describes itself as a genomic company “aiming to unleash the power of genomics” by allowing precision and sustainable development in agriculture, in plant diseases — soybean first.
Boissonneault current tools are able to identify whether phytophthora is “there or not.”
The company is working to identify specific variants in the RPS genes (Ribosomal Protein Small) genes to find resistance that is effective from seedling to harvest.
“If you don’t have the right genes in the variety that you’re planting that fits the variants that have mutated in the field, the plants will get infected," he said. “I know in the Red River Valley this is a big problem, the No. 1 disease.”
If successful with phytophthora, the company expects to expand its work to soybean cyst nematode (“SCN”), another major threat for soybeans. A researcher is looking to find, within the nematode, with PCR testing.
“There is more to come with natural resistance,” Boissonneault said. “We are in the pre-commercialization phase and are working to have some growers.”
He said Ayos expects to be involved in a “pilot trial” on the 140-acre Innovation Facility near Casselton, North Dakota. The Grand Farm is an initiative launched by Emerging Prairie in 2019 and recently funded by a $10 million matching grant, authorized by the North Dakota Legislature but paid for from a $1 billion appropriation from federal COVID-19 funding.
Ayos will use it to “showcase” their capabilities, as part of a “partnership contract.”
“We will do soil testing to know more about what are the (phytophthora disease) variants there, and how we can can help, with researchers. We’ll help, for sure, the researchers, and the seed companies,” he said.
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