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Biological Ag Products Gain Foothold in Traditional Markets

Biological Ag Products Gain Foothold in Traditional Markets
Novozymes looks to the future with its lineup of biological ag products, i.e. micro-organisms that benefit crop production.

It's easy to get swept up in Trevor Thiessen's enthusiasm for agricultural biological products.

At Novozymes' major research facility in Davis, Calif., he explains the bio ag industry is currently where the seed technology industry was in the 1980s. It's just one blockbuster product away from hitting the big time.

Until they find their equivalent of Roundup Ready, the president of Novozymes BioAg is pushing forward on three fronts in the ag sector: bio fertility, bio control and bio yield enhancers. They have some exciting offerings in each category.

Chuck Broughton, left, and Trevor Thiessen, right, discuss Novozymes' bio ag offerings.

For example, one bio fertility all-star is their JumpStart system. JumpStart is essentially a fungus that boosts phosphorous uptake in corn and wheat. Jeff Bennett, a Novozymes agronomist, explains that the penicillium bilaii fungus in JumpStart releases organic acids that break down the phosphorous molecules into a useable form for the plant.

Within their bio control lineup, their Met 52 bio-insecticide is turning some heads. Novozymes' Curtis Granger notes Met 52 is a pathogenic fungus that works well on thips, whiteflies, mites and vine weevils. The Met 52 spores attach to the insect (no ingestion necessary), begin germinating and penetrate the exoskeleton in the process. It takes the fungus about three to five days to fatally overwhelm the insect. For this reason, Granger says it's best used as a preventive measure.

These products are at the heart of Novozymes strategy. Chuck Broughton, director of North American sales and marketing, says their bio ag business can be explained in three simple steps. 1. Find a beneficial micro-organism in nature. 2. Cultivate and refine them in the laboratory. 3. Produce and market them.

The strategy is fairly straightforward, but drastically different from the traditional chemistry avenues that are the norm for controlling pests and boosting yield. As a result, many could easily write off Novozymes BioAg technology.

Touring the labs and seeing some of the past successes, such as enzymes that improve the effectiveness of cold-water laundry detergents, it's easy to see why Broughton and Thiessen are excited about the company's future in bio ag.   

Still not convinced? Consider this: five to ten years ago, Thiessen had a tough time garnering attention from traditional ag chemical companies. Today, they're calling him, a lot. Many of them see bio ag as a great way to extend the usefulness of traditional chemistries and stave off resistance, Thiessen explains. Not to mention, it's typically less expensive and much quicker to bring a biological ag product to the marketplace.

In the video below: Trevor Thiessen, president of Novozymes BioAg group, explains how working with traditional ag chemical companies makes perfect sense.

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