SACRAMENTO, CA – Stevia First Corp. (“Stevia First” or the “Company”), an early-stage agribusiness based in California’s Central Valley growing region and focused on the industrial scale production of stevia, the all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that is rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry, is planning a field-scale study using agricultural drones to interrupt Stevia’s photoperiod using brief overnight illumination which could produce dramatic gains in stevia leaf and steviol glycoside yields.
Under laboratory conditions, interruption of Stevia’s photoperiod has been described as delivering dramatic gains in leaf biomass and steviol glycoside content. The researchers report that brief overnight illumination of stevia with red LED light can simulate long-day growth and prevent flowering, which drives increases in leaf mass and steviol glycoside content. These results include a doubling of steviol glycosides within several weeks and extrapolate to a full year production increase offering more than a five-fold gain in steviol glycosides. Stevia First scientists aim to verify these exceptional results and work towards developing feasible technologies that facilitate field-scale deployment of photoperiod-interrupting technology.
The MIT Technology Review recently labeled the use of agricultural drones as a “breakthrough technology,” heralding a new era in agriculture, and note that these drones currently cost less than $1,000 each and may provide a more data-driven approach to farming. Stevia First Corp. is moving to enable a reliable global supply of stevia, and part of this work involves providing domestic growers with the tools they need to make stevia an economically-viable crop. If results with photoperiod interruption as seen by researchers in the laboratory, can be replicated and implemented at field-scale, it could introduce an economic shift in domestic stevia production resulting in far greater production efficiencies as opposed to traditional methods currently employed in the primary growing regions of China.
“American farmers have always been quick to adapt to technological change and reap the benefits,” said Robert Brooke, CEO of Stevia First. “Combining drones with photoperiod interruption for stevia is a radical approach that we’re thrilled to participate in the development of with local growers.”
About Stevia First Corp. (OTCQB: STVF)
Stevia First Corp. is seeking to establish a vertically-integrated enterprise in the U.S. that uses technological expertise in fermentation-based stevia production and improves upon traditional stevia farming and processing methods. Stevia First’s U.S. operations are located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.
About the Stevia Industry
The market for all-natural, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners is expanding rapidly. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates stevia intake could eventually replace 20-30% of all dietary sweeteners. The total global sweetener market was estimated at $58.3 billion in 2010.