David SANDS and Claire BAKER

Thursday 2 December 2021 | 5:00 pm – Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA

Professor of Plant Pathology, Montana State University, co-founder of the Toothpick Project

Director / Co-founder of the Toothpick Project and Toothpick Company Ltd. (pilot enterprise in Kenya)

A Toothpick Revolution: Small scale farmers in Africa lead the world in novel bioherbicide advancement

(Host: L. Donaldson)

Using biology to fight biology in one of the biggest battles against weeds globally, the Toothpick Project’s bioherbicide innovation utilizes a local plant disease to effectively kill Striga (witchweed), Africa’s worst pest threat to food security. Developed by Dr. David Sands, Montana State University, the novel technology brings together two concepts: amino acid inhibition and biocontrol with the host-specific plant pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum.

After twelve years of research and development in Kenya, including five years of regulatory processes, the resulting bioherbicide product, Kichawi Kill, was approved for commercial use in Kenya in March 2021. In 2018, the project selected and trained a team of scientists from a dozen other sub-Saharan countries – in anticipation of expansion beyond Kenya. The innovation is participating in the ICGEB effort to harmonize biocontrol regulation in the SADC. Based on the novel innovation, the potential for food security and economic development, and the new opportunity to challenge the dominant synthetic herbicide market, the company has received recent awards including: UN Best Small Business Good Food for All Winner 2021; IFT Seeding Solutions Finalist 2021; UNDP Cultiv@te 2021; MacArthur Foundation Bold Solutions Network: Top 100 (2020); Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Exploration 2013.

The mission of the Toothpick Project is to create and implement a biological solution for small scale farmers battling Striga (witchweed), the worst pest threat to food security in Africa. Globally, we envision a shift in pest management, mobilizing safer, more effective technology through biocontrol.