February 02, 2023

Sandwich teen wins national 4-H youth agriculture award for developing bio-pesticide

SANDWICH, Ill. — Matias Habib, 17, of Sandwich, was named a winner of the 2023 4-H Youth in Action Award for Agriculture sponsored by Bayer.

Habib will be recognized nationally for developing his own patent-pending bio-pesticide and startup business through a 4-H entomology project.

Launched in 2010, the 4-H Youth in Action Awards recognize 4-H members who have applied the knowledge gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities while overcoming personal obstacles.

As a national winner, Habib will receive a $5,000 higher education scholarship and spend 2023 inspiring other youth by telling his 4-H story and celebrating his leadership.

In addition, he will have opportunities to showcase his story nationally, network with prominent 4-H alumni and serve as the official 4-H youth spokesperson for agriculture.

“After struggling with cognitive, social and language barriers, 4-H gave me a place to connect and develop my passion for science and research,” Habib said in a news release from the National 4-H Council.

“Through 4-H, I met kids who shared my interests, especially in natural sciences. I learned how to develop a product that could help other farmers and gardeners facing the challenges my family faced in a safe and sustainable way.”

After moving to the United States as a child, Habib felt like an outsider and struggled with language barriers and social anxiety.

He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but later realized those differences were vital tools that empowered his focus on science.

Through the Illinois Cooperative Extension 4-H science program he found community and confidence.

When his family’s orchard was attacked by the invasive Japanese beetle, Habib began researching, testing and developing a natural solution.

His bio-pesticide spray, TerraBuster, has since shown exceptional results with eco-conscious production practices and ingredients.

With the help of 4-H leaders, Habib funded and staffed his growing business and is expanding his product to repellents for other pests that threaten healthy crops.

“Matias is a stellar example of a young person who has persevered through social challenges to create a path forward and show a great amount of entrepreneurship by creating his own bio-pesticide startup business,” Jackie Applegate, president of Bayer Crop Science North America said.

“At Bayer, we are proud to support many young people — just like Matias — as they learn and develop leadership skills that can make a positive difference in agriculture and in our world in the years ahead.”

Habib is one of four 2023 4-H Youth in Action Award Pillar Winners who were announced during National 4-H Week.

A senior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Habib plans to pursue a career in which he can develop innovative solutions to protect the environment.

To learn about the 4-H Youth in Action Awards and to view the other pillar winners from around the country, visit 4-h.org/youthinaction.