Reducing pesticide use while increasing effectiveness

The Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) spinoff AgZen develops a new product that enables efficient and effective use of agricultural chemicals sprayed on field crops, which could reduce overuse of chemicals.

Kripa Varanasi, co-founder of the venture-backed company, says: “Worldwide, farms spend approximately $60 billion a year on pesticides. Our objective is to reduce the number of pesticides sprayed and lighten the financial burden on farms without sacrificing effective pest management,” Varanasi says.


Farming can be a low-margin, high-risk business, subject to weather and climate patterns, insect population cycles and other unpredictable factors. Farmers need to be savvy managers of the many resources they deal, and chemical fertilisers and pesticides are among their major recurring expenses.

Despite the importance of these chemicals, a lack of technology that monitors and optimises sprays has forced farmers to rely on personal experience and rules of thumb to decide how to apply these chemicals. As a result, these chemicals tend to be over-sprayed, leading to their runoff into waterways and buildup up in the soil.

That could change, thanks to a new approach of feedback-optimised spraying, invented by AgZen, an MIT spinout founded in 2020 by Professor Kripa Varanasi and Vishnu Jayaprakash SM ’19, PhD ’22.

MIT News