J-WAFS scientists develop new tech to reduce US farming $60 billion annual pesticides spend

Around two million tonnes of pesticides are used globally per year. These poisons break down in the environment into toxic products that contaminate soil, water, turf and other vegetation. The US lags behind other nations in banning these harmful products. Indeed, as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Kripa Varanasi gave a talk to the US Department of Agriculture, where he sought out the biggest challenge facing USDA representatives. The answer: pesticide runoff from farmland. At the time, Kripa was focused on researching the bottlenecks that occur between states of matter, such as when liquids and solids meet. His aim was to find solutions to make droplets stick to or bounce off solids. Kripa eventually went on to co-found a company, AgZen, that can offer a solution. Invented by MIT mechanical engineering graduate Vishnu Jayaprakash, AgZen's field-tested and patented spray and formulation technology enables agrochemical droplets to stick better to plants, helping farmers to reduce pesticide pollution and save operational costs without compromising on crop yield. AgZen received funding from the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) Solutions Programme to enable global field tests of the technology and its commercialisation and was the 2022 winner of the J-WAFS World Food Day Video Competition.