During a recent call with Farmer Business Network, we were able to confirm one area of business the company may not enter — farm equipment — but the company supplies farmers a wide range of inputs, from seed to crop protection products.
The call centered on a new area that company will enter, and that's the fast-growing biologicals market. As farmers turn to new ways to boost yields, biologicals may offer the answer; but as Neil McCormick explains, the move into this business isn’t being made lightly.
“We spent a lot of time just looking at the market,” says McCormick, who is the global product development manager for biologicals at FBN. “We were seeing what was available, and we pretty much cataloged everybody by what they were doing, then narrowed it down.”
Sorting for top choices
McCormick acknowledges that the biologicals market has gotten intense in the last few years, noting there are thousands of products; and that to come up with a new product line meant reclassifying the business in simpler terms. But cutting through that biological chaff, the innovative business firm has come up with a new FBN Direct Biological Portfolio.
McCormick explains the company reviewed the industry and categorized it into five main areas, and then worked to identify products to become FBN brands in each category. “We looked at all the partners and all the technologies out there, and just tried to identify partners that could deliver products that had good tankmix characteristics, that were easy to use at a good price point that had some agronomic differentiation, and they could defend the agronomy," he says.
The biological lineup
Soil prebiotics contain biomolecules to help stimulate microbial activity. The FBN lineup of soil prebiotics includes GCS Catalyst.
Soil probiotics are live microorganisms with targeted functions intended to help improve soil function, and enhance nutrient availability and delivery to the crop. The FBN line includes Inject-N and Inject-PK.
Photosynthetic enhancers are foliar-applied biostumulants that aid a crop’s ability to convert light energy into chemical or plant energy. The FBN lineup includes Atarrus.
Carbon sources are forms of stable carbon including organic, humic and fulvic acids that are originally from plants that provide benefits to the soil. The FBN lineup of carbon sources includes Inhabit: Boost, Inhabit: Build and Inhabit Build: Granular.
Advanced micronutrients are essential micronutrient fertilizers, enhanced by biology. The FBN lineup includes the Nourish suite of products.
“We’re not married to one material, or one technology; we have a good mix of all of those, and we’re trying to figure out ways to combine those to see synergistic effects,” McCormick says.
Last fall, FBN announced the Biological R&D network, so that large-scale trials can optimize biological input programs. Participating biological manufacturers will also be able to collect insights on product efficacy and performance by environment.
FBN has a business area called Gradable, which Steele Lorenz explains is the sustainability arm of FBN. Lorenz is the head of the sustainable business for FBN, and he notes that Gradable is designed to help growers get either preferential treatment or premiums from environmental claims made in their fields.
“Today we support two major markets — the offset market, where you’re sequestering carbon in your soils and selling to nonagribusinesses as a carbon offset," Lorenz says. “We also support supply chain programs where you are flowing the environmental claims along with the bushels that you sell to be able to support premium products."
Lorenz notes that the Gradable Plan is a new service that partners well with the new biologicals business. “This is a soil sampling and nutrient recommendation service that will help growers maximize the ROI of their fertilizer programs, and potentially earn credits for various environmental markets that they want to play in,” he says.
He explains that an area of interest is ratcheting down the use of nitrogen to raise crops. Nitrogen is a potent greenhouse gas with nearly 300 times the atmospheric impact of carbon dioxide. Lowering nitrogen use can have an outsized impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
“With biologicals that fix nitrogen, the promise has been made to replace that nitrogen; but more often that is used as a yield protection product instead of actually ratcheting down nitrogen use,” Lorenz says. “Our service is designed, over the course of multiple years, to help you identify practices and new products, like some of the biologicals, paired with nutrition recommendations to capture true value of that [nitrogen reduction].”
The Gradable Plan would help farmers profit from the savings in inputs and access to new markets that may arise from better environmental outcomes with these practices.
New biologicals and a plan to help farmers capture income from carbon management on their farms: FBN is pushing forward with new ideas for its farmer members. Learn more at fbn.com.