AN ORGANIC, non-selective herbicide in the early stages of commercial development could have the potential to address some of the weed resistance issues facing the widely-used farming herbicide, glyphosate.
Labelled Nontox, the new product is a non-toxic, mineral-based herbicide its developers claim can kill all the weeds currently known to be tolerant or resistant to glyphosate, as well as blackberry and lantana.
Backers of the product pitched their case for capital raising to advance the commercialisation of the product to a ‘shark tank’ panel of investor specialists at the 400M Ag and Food Innovation Forum in Toowoomba this week.
Nontox non-executive director, John Rivett, said Nontox was made from “a secret recipe” mix of commonly known and available minerals.
“They are milled into a very fine powder and mixed with a small amount of water to make a paste. When we make the paste there is a reaction with some of the minerals which produces an exothermic reaction which creates heat and juggles molecules from one compound to another. It is almost impossible to reverse engineer once the water is put into it,” he said.
“….there are 26 weeds in Australia that are now either resistant or tolerant to glyphosate…in the testing so far our product has killed all of them on the first application.”
“In the fullness of time we will have to disclose the exact components to put on the labels in certain jurisdictions. So, we have taken the precaution of applying for a patent on the new mixture.”
Mr Rivett said the company had received support from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) through an ‘incubatorship’ at the DPI’s GATE (Global AgriTech Enterprises) at Orange in central west NSW where it was tested over 90 days.
“The upshot is that the product has proven it can kill all the weeds we have trialled it on so far,” he said.
“During the incubator program the DPI told us there were 26 weeds in Australia that are now either resistant or tolerant to glyphosate, and in the testing so far our product has killed all of them on the first application.
“There are no issues with this product in terms of health or environmental issues. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, capable of being certified as organic.”
The question is whether it will be a cost-effective option for wide-scale use in broadacre agriculture, or be limited to targeted applications.
Mr Rivett said they were testing its potential for use in weed-seeking, spot-spraying situations where it was likely to be a viable option.
“We don’t think it will be as price competitive in a broadacre, blanket-spraying sense because it will probably have to be used as a stronger dose. The cost of producing this product is significantly lower (than competitor herbicide), but you will have to use more per square metre in some applications,” he said.
At the moment, the initial product is being made at a micro-mill in a factory in Dubbo, NSW, but the company is seeking to raise $1.5 million to upscale that plant for commercial production.
“There are serious issues in terms of how it’s distributed, how it is sold, what the costings are, what the margins are and what the logistics are. So, we have decided to adopt a conservative approach by raising money to build a bigger factory in our existing shed at Dubbo, and put the product into the market through selling on the internet to clients we have been introduced to by the NSW DPI.
“On the expressions of interest we have, we could sell all the product we could make in the short term.”