M2i LifeScience: pheromones for biocontrole

M2i is a French company that produces pheromones and provides training in their use. These substances help to capture and disorientate pests, while having no known negative effects on other fauna and flora. At present, this is probably one of the most encouraging ways of eliminating the use of pesticides.

High-quality, practical pheromones

Pheromones are an ecological solution for pest management. They

  • only have an effect on the target insects, they do not disturb the rest of the animal kingdom.
  • do not kill insects, which would eliminate the risk of resistance developing
  • do not pollute production or soil.

A miracle solution, then? Well, it’s actually quite an old answer. The technology was not yet mature:

  • Effectiveness: pheromones are extremely specific molecules, requiring cutting-edge chemistry. Production defects were common.
  • Durability: pheromones dissipate rapidly in the air.
  • Applicability: the system was tedious to implement. For one hectare of vines, 500 to 600 diffusers had to be installed manually.

M2i would have responded to these various obstacles. Firstly, by improving their processes – along with a Japanese company, they would be the best in the world at producing pheromones. Secondly, by making the application more practical and efficient. For example, they have a whole range of application methods which can be used to treat large surfaces over long periods.

Application examples

For example, they have designed paintballs containing a water-wax-natural pheromone emulsion:

“For example, the use of paintball guns. Developed by INRAE in partnership with M2i Life Sciences, this method consists of propelling biodegradable balls containing a gel charged with pheromones microencapsulated in beeswax onto tree trunks at a height of six to nine meters. In short, to sow sexual confusion in the ranks of butterflies. Three hundred phero-balls per hectare, or 30 phero-balls for a single tree, are needed to saturate the air with pheromones for four months, considerably reducing the male’s chances of spotting the female.”

Agriculture compétitive et durable: les apports croissants du biocontrôle, INRAE

This product, used to combat the processionary caterpillar (which damages trees and produces toxic filaments) was the subject of a marketing authorization, a costly and laborious process, in 2017.

They also obtained marketing authorization in 2018 for another device, “Box T Pro Press”, which combats the Boxwood Borer, whose caterpillar feeds on boxwood trees.

Boxwood borer
Credit: Wikipedia

They currently offer some sixty plant protection solutions. In particular, they are developing “in cooperation with INRAE and the beekeeping industry on the development of a product to combat the Asian hornet.”

M2i: a start-up in sight

M2i has filed 19 patent families and employs 165 people. It is the subject of manynational press articles. They have also accompanied the government on several foreign delegations.

The company is also very successful with investors, having managed to raise €12Mn in 2017 and €60Mn in 2019.

So we’ve got a sexy product, cutting-edge technology and media and financial success. Will this be the next French unicorn?

Information we’d like to have:

  • More figures about the application (how much time / product per hectare for what price) and comparisons with competing products.
  • More data on target markets: Farmers? Park maintenance? What about private individuals? Do you plan to tackle mosquitoes and wasps one day?
  • What’s missing to make M2I the world’s leading producer of pest control solutions?

Answer: That’s our goal. The next step in achieving this is to speed up the regulatory process for registering our products on the world’s agricultural markets. These marketing authorizations are the result of administrative validation processes, and are long and costly to obtain.”

Johann Fournil, M2i Director of Partnerships and Communications
  • Is the production process expensive/polluting?
  • What do farmers and agronomists think?

Here are some interesting articles about this startup: