Biological control is a natural, safe, and cost-effective scientific solution that drastically reduces aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnut. The principles are based on crowding out aflatoxin-producing strains of Aspergillus flavus with carefully selected native strains of the same fungus that cannot produce aflatoxins. This biocontrol concept was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). IITA and USDA-ARS designed a manufacturing process for Aflasafe™ using available off-the-shelf equipment that was different from that used elsewhere. The Meridian Institute, on behalf of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) and with resources from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, funded the construction of a prototype manufacturing facility at IITA-Ibadan that can be used to produce Aflasafe™ to treat tens of thousands of hectares of smallholder farms. The demonstration manufacturing plant can also serve as a model that could be replicated in other countries affected by aflatoxin, where biocontrol research is already under way. As a critical component of the strategy, we focused on developing a system that can easily be transferred to private sector actors.
In 2014, we made significant progress in Nigeria on the registration, manufacture, and commercialization of Aflasafe™ which are prerequisites for access to and adoption of the highly effective technology for aflatoxin mitigation in Africa.
The factory was commissioned for the functional production and quality control of Aflasafe™. We developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the manufacture of Aflasafe™ and ensured strict compliance in manufacturing the product for the 2014 season. Special emphasis was placed on quality control aspects during key steps of product manufacturing. Inspectors from the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) evaluated and approved the plant for production of Aflasafe™.
On 30 October 2014, NAFDAC granted full registration to Aflasafe™, making it the first commercial biopesticide registered outside the United States for aflatoxin management. The full registration now gives IITA the freedom to license the product and expand Aflasafe™ commercialization efforts for the benefit of Nigerian agriculture and public health.
In 2014, in partnership with national institutions and with support from other donors, the plant produced 135.4 t of Aflasafe™ for various activities in six countries. Being a new product, Aflasafe™ will require substantial investment in marketing and sales promotion. This is where the Business Incubation Platform (BIP) comes in as part of its menu of agribusiness-support services.
The establishment of the Aflasafe™ factory at the BIP Complex in IITA-Ibadan in 2014 attracted the attention of a number of important investors, partners, and supporters. Among these was Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development who pledged support in scaling up and commercializing Aflasafe™. Minister Adesina also approved the inclusion of Aflasafe™ in the government’s subsidy program GES in 2015.