A new Mexican firm, Applied Biotech, has developed a natural pesticide from molecules that make chili peppers hot. Capsaicinoids are the molecules that give chili peppers their heat, and the Mexican startup has harvested this chemical compound for various products. In addition to using capsaicinoids in an alternative pesticide, Applied Biotech also hopes to use it to develop pepper spray, topical creams, cable coatings and marine paint.
This new capsaicinoids technology was developed by Alejandro Torres. The inventor discovered the various applications of hot pepper molecules by accident during his Ph.D. research project.
“It was already late and had been working all day on experiments for my thesis, I was cleaning up and rubbing in my eyes,” Torres recalled. “When I analyzed the reaction the next day, I found out that I had made the same molecules that caused the hot sensation of peppers.”
He wanted to see how his discovery could be applied to generate proven results, so Torres registered Applied Biotech. The company uses a bio-reactor to extract the natural compounds of chili peppers and test its application under various settings. With some help from the Mexican government, the company became affiliated with HighTechXL, a large networking organization that helped it achieve its capsaicinoids production objectives.
Animals, Insects, Fungi and Bacteria Cannot Tolerate High Amounts of Chili Compounds
Torres and his team of researchers found that just like humans, many animals, insects, fungi and even bacteria cannot tolerate high amounts of the capsaicinoid molecules that give peppers their hot sensation. Torres hopes his natural pesticide will replace the typical and potentially dangerous chemical pesticides that are used in most agricultural settings.
“I come from Cuernavaca, a part of Mexico, where it is called the eternal spring. A lot of wildlife there, it’s beautiful. Sometimes rodents or other animals crawl in a car for shelter, where they bite through cables so that the car no longer functions. You can solve that with poison, but why should you do it that way? You can also solve it without damaging the nature,” Torres said.
Other potential uses for the capsaicinoid technology could be in pepper spray, pain relieving creams, cable or wire coatings and even in marine paint.
“At the moment, we mainly supply to agriculture. But in the future, we would like to supply large paint companies, which is also a polluting industry where there is a lot to be gained,” Torres added.
For 1 Kg of Capsaicinoids, You Need 5 Tons of Jalapeno Peppers,
“The land where peppers are now growing for the industrial use can be used in a different way through our biotechnology. For one kg of our product, you need five tons of Jalapeno peppers, which is about 30 football pitches of agricultural land. You can grow vegetables that people eat, such as tomatoes, corn, and beans. This is necessary because, due to the growing number of people in the world, by 2050 there will not be enough food for everyone,” Torres told Innovation Origins.
So rather than using huge expanses of land to grow just chili peppers, Applied Biotech uses bio-reactor technology to develop the hot pepper molecule. This way, the natural balance of soil is maintained, and fewer chemical pesticides are deployed to control pests.
“It is not only the agricultural land that can be optimized but also the use of fewer chemicals. We also have relatively little waste because we can reuse many of the ingredients from production,” Torres said.