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A natural product chemist and biochemist at Acadia University is breaking new ground with research focused on the discovery of bioactive natural products for pest management and crop protection.
Dr. Nicoletta Faraone hopes to apply these products in the food and health industry. She’s already established several industrial collaborations for development of new naturally-occurring products and is assisting various companies with the product registration process required by the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada.
“All these projects are supervised and directed in collaboration with Dr. Kirk Hillier, a professor in the biology department of Acadia,” Faraone said.
And Dr. Farone’s research is having an impact across Nova Scotia and beyond. She began collaborating with the Windsor, N.S. company, Heritage Memorials Ltd., in 2017 to develop a novel bio-pesticide and natural pest repellant based on granite rock dust.
“Rock dust is the by-product of stone cutting,” Faraone said.
“We found it has great potential as an alternative bio-pesticide because it is completely natural. It is also found to enrich the soil.”
She is hoping her work with Atlantick Repellant Products, in Mahone Bay, N.S., will result in the development of a new tick repellant body spray based on essential oils. The product may also have applications for protecting pets from ticks.
Faraone has even established a collaboration with Aqualitas Ltd., in Liverpool, N.S., which she said is a leader in organic cannabis production, for the development of infused cannabis products for the edible market, working on the chemistry and flavour of the products.
Her work in the lab at Acadia is also benefiting Canadian businesses outside the province.
Nutrilife Plant Products, a British Columbia company, is using her research to improve its product formula and in the registration of their essential oil-based products. The projects have received funding from various levels of government.
Much of Faraone’s research focuses on substances naturally occurring in nature, such as essential oils, and how they can be used safely.
But, she adds, you can have too much of a good thing, even with substances naturally occurring in nature.
“I am very careful about the concentration of the active ingredient I am using. Because I want to have a concentration that is effective in repelling pests in the case of ticks,” she said.
“But I also want to have a concentration that is absolutely safe for us to apply to our skin. It’s a fine line which has to be taken into account when you work with natural products.”
When it comes to using essential oils for developing alternative products for crop protection, Faraone said she is trying to examine the effect of essential oils when they bind together with synthetic pesticides.
“That’s because they can synergize the activity of the synthetic pesticide, but with a lower concentration,” she said.
“So, farmers can achieve the same levels of pest control while applying less of the synthetic pesticides. They can be more kind to the environment.”
Fast facts about Dr. Nicolette Faraone
- Dr. Faraone completed her Ph.D. in chemical ecology at the University of Palermo in Italy
- She has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus and Lund University (Sweden), and as a research associate at Acadia University.
- She was appointed assistant professor of biochemistry in July 2019 in the chemistry department, where she teaches biochemistry, metabolism and natural product chemistry.
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