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closeup of young corn plants at ground level Willie Vogt
COMPANY COMBO: Two biological firms are joining forces to bring to market a broader line of products.

Biologicals firms form venture

Plant Response Biotech and Koch Biological Solutions combine operations to leverage capabilities.

There’s a new player in the crop biologicals market for 2020, with news that Koch Biological Solutions LLC and Plant Response Biotech have combined operations. The new venture will be called Plant Response Biotech Inc., and it aims to leverage the capabilities, assets and product offerings for both companies.

Tom Snipes, CEO of Plant Response, talked with Farm Progress about the new deal. “Both companies have a similar point of view,” Snipes explains. The key, he adds, is that the product offerings for the two are complementary, bringing a broader array of biological products to the market for producers.

Snipes explains that the combination will bring scale to the biologicals market. “Our portfolio [at Plant Response] is targeted at plant immunity, plant physiology and nutrient use efficiency,” he says.

For Koch, he notes the business has been working to develop live microbial and biologically derived chemistries that improve plant performance at every growth stage. “Koch has worked with a Mendelian biotech platform with years of discovery work,” Snipes says. “They have a database of genetics of plants and the markers involved, and they look at the mode of action for a biological at the genetic level.”

He notes that Plant Response works at the cellular level. “I truly feel in this biologicals space, with this class of products from the genetic level to the cellular level, that no one has the platform to do that. It’s a nice balance,” he says.

European start

Plant Response is based in Spain, and Europe has a major movement to end the use of synthetic chemistry. “It took me living in Europe for two or three years to see how they are pushing for alternative solutions. With the severe restrictions on synthetic chemicals, they are looking at alternatives, and the academic institutions do great work,” Snipes says.

This is a startup and is just bringing products into the country through the regulatory process. “We’re building a quality portfolio,” he notes.

Growing a market

Snipes is quick to point out that both companies have a commitment to the retail channel; you’ll be buying these products through a local dealership. “Looking at this market segment, we need to move away from generic terms,” Snipes notes. “We have a group of microbes that provide a plant health benefit.”

The key is engaging the grower to try biologicals and make sure they’re properly deployed to bring farmers benefits. For example, Plant Response has an endophyte product that can help plants better utilize available phosphorus, when used properly. “This is not a magic microbial,” Snipes notes. “But we want to get the science message out that in certain situations, this product can provide higher yields.”

That product makes available phosphorus more available to plant tissues, boosting uptake. But retailers need to have some confidence that the company selling the biological is “for real.”

Snipes points to the strategic investors who have put money into Plant Response and into Koch Biological Solutions in the past. The pedigree includes Koch, Yara, Bayer and Novozymes. “It gives us a level of credibility with these retailers,” he says.

And the new company will engage retailers. A new nematicide for 2020 will include bringing technical sales agronomists out to train dealers and explain the science of the product. Those dealers can train others in this train-the-trainer model. “We want to get the product into the field and build the trust. And we want to build on that science-based method,” Snipes says.

He says the new firm has a nice cadence of new products coming in 2020, 2021 and 2022, including what he calls some “blockbuster products” in the latter year. This combined operation has improved distribution and the opportunity to bring biologicals to new markets.

The company is offering 12 science-based products aimed at mitigating abiotic stress, providing yield improvement, enhancing plant innate immunity and increasing nutrient use efficiency. The new firm will be based in Raleigh, N.C., with research operations in Hayward, Calif.; there will also be research and commercial operations based in Madrid. Learn more at plantresponse.com.

TAGS: Crops
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