An insecticide produced similarly to beer using the venom of funnel web spiders is providing farmers with an environmentally friendly alternative.
Developed by University of Queensland professor, Glenn King, it has been a long process to reach the scale required for broadacre applications.
"It started back in the 90s when we were all aware that insecticides were becoming less effective and some were having really adverse environmental impacts," he said.
"I started to think about how we could develop a new approach to make things a bit more friendly."
Prof King said he started looking at the venom of spiders.
"The premise being that spiders have been killing insects for 400 million years - they're the best insect killers on the planet," he said.
"The first real surprise to me was they were way more complicated than I thought."
It took testing thousands of molecules in spider venom to identify a peptide in funnel web spiders that was optimum for the use.
Developing the insecticide on a large scale was the biggest challenge for Prof King and in searching for a market he said companies were sceptical it could be done, or done cheap enough to be competitive, so he founded his own company Vestaron Corporation in 2005 to begin production.
"That was the hardest thing to do - it took us 10 years to get it to the scale where we were competitive on speciality crops, fruit, nuts, in greenhouses," he said.
"We took a gene that encoded the peptide, inserted it into yeast and we grow it like beer so it's now grown in hundred thousand litre fermenters," he said.
The product for specialty crops was released in 2018 and after further development the company released their first broadacre product earlier this year, cheap enough to compete with current chemicals on the market.
"It is the same molecule as the other products but they're able to make it at much greater scale now," he said.
"You can spray it on pretty much anything which is really exciting."
Prof King said the key feature of the insecticide was how safe it was for everything from bees to fish, birds and the farmer's dog.
"It is one of the only insecticides in the world that doesn't have a bee warning so you can spray it around bee hives and it's got a zero day pre harvest delay so you can spray in the morning and harvest in the afternoon," he said.
"It degrades to amino acids so if anything the degradation products are just soil nutrients so super safe for the soil.
"The farmer can spray it with confidence and not worry about anything else."
Prof King said being a new product there was also the added bonus of no resistance so made a good option for farmers to add into their rotation.
He said further research was being undertaken and was also looking at using venom from other arthropods including scorpions.
"We want to completely rework the whole framework of insecticides and turn more into these safe peptides that don't have any environmental issue," he said.
For his research Prof King was recently awarded the Prime Minister's prize for innovation.
Using spider venom he has also been researching its use in drugs to treat things including epilepsy, chronic pain and strokes.
Prof King co-founded a company called Infensa Bioscience and they plan to start clinical trials in 2024.
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