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Radicle Challenge
Radicle Challenge

Investing US $1.75M in start-ups advancing natural solutions

The NPP Radicle Challenge by UPL

The challenge: Advance natural and biological solutions to protect crops from biotic stresses

UPL has partnered with Radicle Growth, a company-building platform investing in early-stage agriculture and food technologies, to launch “The Radicle Natural Plant Protection (NPP) Challenge by UPL”. The Challenge sets out to invest US$ 1.75M in start-up companies that are advancing natural and biological solutions to protect crops from biotic stresses such as bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, and arachnids. Alongside the investment, the winners will gain access to UPL and Radicle’s leading agricultural expertise, mentorship, and global networks to further develop and advance their technologies.

NPP, UPL’s natural solutions business unit, is proud to be the leading provider of biological products worldwide. With a strong existing portfolio of Biosolutions, NPP is looking to use its expertise and global reach to nurture start-ups, support ag-tech development, and expand its pipeline, with a particular focus on biocontrol solutions.

The significance of our food security and climate change crises place a new urgency on the rapid development and deployment of solutions that protect crops and ensure healthy yields whilst safeguarding the environment. UPL has experience in efficiently getting nature-based solutions into the hands of farmers – and we’re excited to expand this effort and our value offering for food systems through the NPP Radicle Challenge.

Mike Frank - CEO | UPL
Mike Frank


UPL Corporation

A sustainable food future with natural solutions

NPP has built an extensive portfolio encompassing a range of applications including increasing crop resilience of disease and pests, supporting crop nutrition, improving soil health while reducing residues and environmental impacts. We believe in the power of small to make a significant difference – harnessing nature’s own microscopic technologies to create biological solutions that deliver win-wins for environmental protection, climate-change mitigation, and biodiversity, whilst advancing our food security efforts.

For example:

Natural solutions meet the desires of consumers to reduce chemicals in food production and meet the growing ESG requirements of producers themselves

The yield and quality claims attached to many products are being more closely scrutinised than ever. Innovation in biosolutions is meeting these needs with impressive results across food and cash crops alike.

Sustainability is at the top of the global development agenda, with new technologies sought to combat climate change, food security, water scarcity, and soil degradation. Natural solutions offer a positive contribution to all of these issues and many others with a tangible, proven solution.

Natural solutions can offer win-wins for environmental protection, climate-change mitigation, and biodiversity, whilst advancing our food security efforts. We are on the lookout for start-ups that are pioneering biological solutions and biocontrol products that will protect crops from biotic stresses and ensure healthy yields – and in return, as industry leaders, we are offering a considerable investment opportunity and strong go-to-market support to elevate businesses.

Ezio Costa - NPP BU Leader | UPL
Ezio Costa

NPP BU Leader,

UPL Corporation

R&D with UPL

Leveraging our 25 best-in-class R&D facilities across our global reach we are combining the latest cutting-edge research, scientific insights, and farming demonstrations to develop progressive practices, discover breakthrough technologies, and get tailored and transformative innovations into the hands of farmers as efficiently as possible. Guided by our OpenAg purpose, we have a positive track record in supporting start-ups to grow and elevate their offering.

Over our 50+ years of growth, we have developed a global network of best-in-class R&D facilities which are driving new innovations to support farmers globally. Pairing these facilities with our customer-centric focus and robust go-to-market structure, we are uniquely positioned to rapidly place new technologies in the field, and are committed to investing in new ways to ensure effective natural solutions are part of farmer’s everyday assets.

Vicente Gongora
Vicente Gongora

Chief Technology Officer,

UPL Corporation

The finalists: Identifying natural solutions to shape sustainable food systems









After a rigorous selection process, we are delighted to announce the finalists of The Radicle NPP Challenge. Drawn from 237 entries spanning over 55 countries, four trailblazing start-ups will showcase their innovation to a panel of global agribusiness judges at the Pitch Day event on March 18th. A US $1 million investment will be made in The Challenge winner and a US $750,000 investment in the second-place winner. In addition to the funding, the winners will also get access to advice from UPL and Radicle Growth’s leadership to help accelerate their growth!


IBI Ag harnesses the power of antibodies to develop bioinsecticides that target pests with precision. Its bioinsecticides offer a new mode of action for effectively controlling pests while minimizing environmental impact.

Impetus-Ag Logo

Impetus Agriculture is developing new biological insect control products with the effectiveness of legacy chemical methods of control. By developing novel proteins that enhance current Bt products (both topical and transgenic), Impetus' products marry the safety record of Bt's with much faster and more effective insect control.

Logo-SolastaBio Logo

SOLASTA Bio is a bioinsecticides company designing nature-inspired, selectively targeted peptide insect control products.

TAGlogo_IBA Logo

Trillium Ag is developing a platform to unlock RNAi for precise, sustainable, and effective crop protection, by combining a patented RNAi trigger within a single-stranded nanostructure protected by a programmable protein coat.

Reimagining Sustainability with Radicle

The Challenge is part of our mission to Reimagine Sustainability for global agriculture by empowering global growers with the tools and technologies they need to perform regenerative, productive, and climate-positive agriculture. It reflects UPL’s wider commitment to innovation, and technology as a catalyst for change, whether hands-on, collaborative, or supportive as is the Radicle Challenge itself.

The 2022 NPP Radicle Challenge marked the second competition led by UPL in collaboration with Radicle Growth, with a total of US $1.25M invested in two companies in 2022 as part of ‘The Radicle Carbon & Soil Challenge’. The 2022 Challenge saw the highest participation in any Radicle Challenge to date, with over 150 entries received from 40 countries.

The 2022 winners were
Pluton Biosciences Logo

A micro mining company looking to nature for cutting-edge biotech solutions, was selected as the 1st place winner, receiving a US $1M investment for discovering next-generation products for agriculture, biomaterials, and carbon sequestration.

Pluton Biosciences

Winning the 2022 “Radicle Carbon & Soil Challenge by UPL” has allowed us to accelerate our research and development of sustainable solutions for carbon sequestration and soil health. The resulting relationships with both UPL and Radicle Growth helped us to gain traction and credibility with investors during our recent Series A raise and will continue to help us as our technology advances to the product development phase.

Elizabeth Gallegos

CEO, Pluton Biosciences


A technology company enhancing the efficiency of global phosphorous use, was awarded a US $250,000 investment for developing a responsible fertiliser additive designed to increase efficiency for farmers while lowering environmental impact.


Winning the “Radicle Carbon & Soil Challenge by UPL” and receiving investment from UPL has accelerated our business. The insight and involvement of both the Radicle Growth and UPL teams has been invaluable as we continue our mission to provide farmers with more sustainable fertilizer solutions.

Hunter Swisher

CEO, Phospholutions

Jai Shroff - Group CEO, UPL ltd.

Guided by our OpenAg purpose, we are actively engaging with partners from across the food value chain to drive and utilise innovation to grow food more productively and sustainably for generations to come. Building on the success of last year’s Challenge, we’re excited to work with entrepreneurs and start-up companies to unlock new opportunities for how we can integrate natural and biological solutions into our food systems and drive forward climate-positive agriculture.

Jai Shroff

Chairman and Group CEO, UPL Group


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