Monsanto, Atomwise Collaborate to Discover New Crop Protection Options

The unique research collaboration was created to increase the speed and probability of discovering and developing new crop protection using artificial intelligence technology.

Monsanto Company (No. 39 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and Atomwise have formed a unique research collaboration to increase the speed and probability of discovering and developing new crop protection products using artificial intelligence.


"Each growing season, farmers around the world are challenged with yield-robbing pests and diseases, yet the average crop protection product takes up to 11 years and more than $250 million to commercialize," said Jeremy Williams, Monsanto's Agricultural Productivity Innovations Lead. "Discovering new solutions is critical, and this collaboration will help bring much-needed crop protection solutions to farmers faster."

Atomwise develops artificial intelligence systems for molecular discovery. Through this research collaboration, Atomwise's groundbreaking AtomNet technology will employ powerful deep learning algorithms and supercomputers to analyze millions of molecules for potential crop protection products.

"Feeding a growing population is an urgent priority for global health that calls us to use every available technology," said Dr. Abraham Heifets, Chief Executive Officer of Atomwise. "We are taking everything Atomwise has learned fighting deadly human diseases with artificial intelligence, and using that knowledge to combat the destructive pests that plague our food supply."

Instead of the traditional trial-and-error and process of elimination to analyze tens of thousands of molecules, the AtomNet technology aims to streamline the initial phase of discovery by analyzing how different molecules interact with one another. AtomNet accelerates this process using deep learning to predict which molecules could have a positive effect in controlling harmful diseases or insects. The software teaches itself about molecular interactions by identifying patterns, similar to how artificial intelligence learns to recognize images.

"By combining Atomwise's sophisticated artificial intelligence systems with Monsanto's ability to apply real-world validation through the integration of plant breeding, plant biotechnology, crop protection, ag biologicals and data science platforms, together we can develop technologies that support farmers as they work to grow better harvests, protect their crops and deliver more to society in the face of mounting environmental challenges," added Williams.

Monsanto is the first company in the agriculture industry to partner with Atomwise. This collaboration complements Monsanto's unique partnered approach to crop protection discovery.

Monsanto Company Awards $500,000 Grant to T-REX to Support New Resource Center for Geospatial Innovation

Currently more than 200 small companies and start-ups are housed at T-REX, which is also located about two miles away from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency construction site.

REUTERS

Originally Published by Monsanto.

In its continued support of geospatial innovation, Monsanto Company has awarded a $500,000 grant to T-REX, a St. Louis based non-profit business and technology incubator to support the creation of a new Geospatial Resource and Innovation Center.

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Monsanto and 2Blades Foundation Collaborate to Combat Devastating Soybean Disease


"Collaboration with industry is vital to ensure that new discoveries made in the lab can lead to innovations that will prevent crop losses caused by plant disease," said Dr. Peter van Esse, leader of the 2Blades Research Group at TSL.

REUTERS

Originally Published by Monsanto.

Monsanto Company and charitable organization 2Blades Foundation (2Blades) have formed a new collaboration to discover novel sources of genetic resistance to Asian soybean rust (ASR). 2Blades will deliver resistance genes in further collaboration with The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL, Norwich, UK), the leading global institute for research on plant-pathogen interactions, and the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV), a leading university in agricultural sciences in Brazil.

Asian soybean rust, a disease caused by the fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi, results in yellowing and browning of soybean leaves and can lead to premature senesence and significant yield loss. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), P. pachyrhizi has spread rapidly and causes yield losses from 10 to 80% in Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Paraguay, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.1

"Asian soybean rust is an ugly and expensive disease that can devastate farmers' harvests," said Jeremy Williams, Monsanto's biotechnology and ag productivity innovation lead. "Current fungicide treatments can provide some control, but farmers need more tools – and the 2Blades research could help provide a durable solution as part of an integrated pest-management system."

2Blades' mission is to contribute to global food security by developing crops with long-lasting resistance to pathogens in order to reduce losses due to disease. By working with world-leading plant scientists, 2Blades seeks to discover new sources of disease resistance in nature and transfer them into important crops to extend the breadth of their immune system and secure yields.

"Collaboration with industry is vital to ensure that new discoveries made in the lab can lead to innovations that will prevent crop losses caused by plant disease," said Dr. Peter van Esse, leader of the 2Blades Research Group at TSL. "It is therefore exciting to see that our scientific expertise and knowledge on plant-microbe interactions will be combined with Monsanto's capacity to deliver solutions to farmers to tackle a key challenge in soybean cultivation."

"The management of soybean rust requires the integration of different approaches, including disease resistance. This collaboration will allow us to use cutting-edge technologies to speed up the identification of new resistance genes that can be used to deliver more sustainable solutions to soybean farmers, reducing the environmental and economic impact of ASR," said Prof. Sérgio H. Brommonschenkel at UFV.

In January 2017, Monsanto, 2Blades and The Sainsbury Laboratory announced a collaboration focused on tackling corn disease complexes such as stalk and ear rots that have the potential to significantly reduce yield. That research is ongoing and is independent of this new collaboration.

The ASR collaboration complements Monsanto's work to expand the global crop protection toolbox while enabling farmers to produce more with less of an impact on the environment. 2Blades retains rights to deploy new leads arising from the program in crops for smallholder farmers in the least developed countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Soybean is a crop of significant and increasing importance in Africa, with extraordinary nutritional, soil, and economic benefits. However, the presence of ASR throughout the African continent is a major factor limiting production.

Monsanto: Mark Edge on WEMA, the Fall Armyworm and farmers in Africa

Mark Edge, Director of Collaborations for Developing Countries at Monsanto, talks about WEMA, the initiative that uses Bt maize to eradicate a harmful pest and help smallholder farmers in Africa.

REUTERS

By Mark Edge

Originally Published by Monsanto.

My work at Monsanto over the years has offered me many new challenges – lately I'm working with a team on the complex issue of helping smallholder farmers in Africa get better seed to help them manage the threats to their maize crops.

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