Who knew ancient herbal remedies could be used to kill weeds too?
Marrone Organic Innovations is tinkering with a way to use components of an herbal medicine as an organic weed killer, said CEO Pam Marrone. Right now, a Chinese company uses the substance as a medicine for Hepatitis C. The crop for the medicine is grown in Mongolia and then processed near Beijing. Marrone Organic will get its herbs from the same crops and process the material in China as well.
The company already makes GreenMatch O, a citrus-based weed killer.
Marrone is one of the principal entrepreneurs in the small, but growing, organic pesticide market. Instead of killing root rot nematodes and other pests with chemicals, these companies find micro-organisms to do the job. One example is a single cell animal that lives in the bark of cinnamon trees in Honduras that wipes out all sorts of fungi. These biopesticides can increase organic crop yields, help farmers get around export restrictions in some companies, and in general reduce the amount of industrial chemicals sprayed onto crops worldwide, say proponents. Pests also can't build resistance to organic pesticides as easily as they can to man-made toxic cocktails, say many.
Marrone founded AgraQuest, which sells biopesticides to consumers and large farming conglomerates. AgraQuest got bought by a private equity firm last year.