Investment Notes: Azaneo
For farmers, managing weeds is expensive. A 2016 GRDC study estimated that the total cost of weeds (revenue loss plus expenditure) to Australian grain growers is over $3 billion annually.
Today, farmers rely heavily on herbicides, like glyphosate, for weed control at scale. While this approach has led to significant increases in production, the pervasive use of herbicides has some challenges: increasing levels of herbicide resistance limit efficacy, chemical drift can cause ecological damage, and global input supply chains are subject to shocks and shortages.
Herbicides are also problematic from an emissions perspective. Depending on the crop and production system, herbicide production and use can generate up to 232 tCO2e/Ha.
Given the economic and environmental challenges with status quo weed management, we’re thrilled to introduce Azaneo, our 14th investment, an entirely non-chemical tool for weeding. We are proud to lead Azaneo’s pre-seed investment round of AUD$1.4m alongside global co-investors Agfunder and IP Group.
What they do: non-chemical weed management
Azaneo is developing an agricultural appliance that uses pulsed electrification to manage weeds without the use of chemical inputs. Their novel electrical approach will involve far lower GHG emissions than current herbicides or existing non-chemical alternatives. It also operates directly on the target weed, eliminating the risk of spray drift and ecological damage.
Wait, another weed zapper?
Non-chemical approaches to weed destruction aren’t new. There have been many attempts to reduce or remove synthetic chemical herbicides from use, from lasers to chippers to precision sprayers. Azaneo’s approach is differentiated in its ability to kill weeds with low power requirements and at treatment speeds that do not impact farmer’s everyday operations.
Why we love it: laser focus on a deeply understood problem
Azaneo co-founders Jason Chaffey and Liam Hescock are uniquely placed to solve this problem. While working on previous generations of non-chemical weeding technology, they developed market-tested performance benchmarks that any scalable solution would have to meet.
Azaneo’s novel pulsed electric field (PEF) technology is squarely focused on delivering against clear performance metrics for selectivity, energy use, and speed.
Their PEF approach will provide a pragmatic, cost-effective, and chemical-free weed management solution that is resilient to the impacts of variable weather, and directly addresses the huge challenge of herbicide resistance.
Next generation weed management needs a systems approach. Azaneo is focused specifically on weed destruction, and they will work with the right partners to solve detection, movement, and autonomy as required.
Unlocking global impact
Removal of synthetic destructor chemicals from agricultural production will have a huge impact. But this will only happen where new products are better than the current alternatives. We believe that Azaneo is a better alternative for weed management, and that the impact on ecological sustainability and GHG emissions will be enormous.
Azaneo maps to the Tenacious Ventures investment & impact themes of lower intensity production and democratized infrastructure.