The Challenge of Commercialization for Niche Products

The USDA Natural Products Research Unit developed and patented an algaecide to prevent musty off-flavor in catfish production from certain blue-green algae (USDA ARS, 2008). It was researched as a more benign alternative to the current synthetic herbicide being used called diuron. Diuron is included in the Pesticide Action Network’s “Bad Actor Pesticides” due to concerns of carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and ground water contamination (PAN, 2008). However, diuron is not banned under US EPA or international regulations.

The US EPA gave the new algaecide an emergency approval (Section 18), which was renewed for several years. It was granted full approval for use in catfish aquaculture in 2008 (Duke, 2008). Since the market is so small, however, the USDA laboratory has not been successful in finding a company willing to bring the technology to market. An EPA ban on diuron would be a galvanizing driver for marketing this diuron alternative. This example highlights economic and regulatory challenges and opportunities impacting commercialization of biopesticides alternatives due to their niche market applications.