By Renee Targos, February 7, 2024
AgriBusiness Global recently talked to Marcus Meadows-Smith, CEO for BioConsortia, about the company’s expansion into Brazil. Registration efforts have been started for multiple seed-applied products including a fungicide targeting early-season pathogens like rhizoctonia and pythium, as well as a broad-spectrum nematicide that also shows activity against important soil insects like corn rootworm and wireworm. Meadows-Smith also discussed launching new products in the U.S.
ABG: Brazilian growers are using biocontrol products on row crops. Did that draw you to that country?
MMS: Yes, we are just about to launch in the U.S. a series of transformational products, and unusually, within the biological space with most of our products are focused on row crops. When the Brazilian market started to open up for row crops, specifically in corn and wheat, we decided, this is a market we need to be in. We already have great yield and efficacy data from those two crops in the U.S., now it’s a matter of demonstrating, replicating those yield increase and efficacy levels in Brazil and then completing the registration process.
ABG: How long have your field studies been going on in the U.S.?
MMS: We are in the final year of field testing. We wanted to make sure we had three years of our own field trials before taking products to market. In the last three years, we’ve had flooding, drought, and extreme heat temperatures. We’ve really put our products to the test. They’ve demonstrated great yield increase and good efficacy on row crops. We’re now confident to go ahead with those product launches in the U.S. We decided it was also time to expand and accelerate the development into Brazil.
ABG: How many products do you plan to bring to Brazil?
MMS: The most important products for Brazil are actually going to be our nitrogen-fixing microbes that we can put on as a seed treatment. We will be the first company to launch a robust nitrogen-fixing seed treatment that has 18 months of life-on-seed on corn. Particularly for corn, where growers and seed companies might keep the seed from year to year, that 18-month life-on-seed is important.
The grower can either reduce nitrogen and still get the same level of yield off the corn, soybean, or wheat field, or can deliver incremental nitrogen to the plant during the growing season. The grower can actually see an increase in yields on top of what they would normally consider to be a full fertilizer regime.
The other important product is going to be nematicides and insecticides seed treatments. For corn and soybean, we’ve demonstrated that we can control nematodes on those crops. As growers control them, that leads to increased yields, which is one of the main measures of a good nematicide. We’re just starting to get data in the U.S. showing that we also control insect pests on these crops.
ABG: How will you get your products to Brazilian growers?
MMS: We will run trials with contract researchers, growers, and most importantly with our partners in Brazil. For example, for nitrogen-fixing microbes, we’ve already appointed Mosaic as our partner. We will be supporting their field, demonstration, and grower trials with the nematocytes and the fungicides. We have several companies testing our products on a non-exclusive basis until we appoint our chosen partner. We are very much an R&D company. Even in the U.S., we don’t go directly to market. We always choose to go through a partner who has on the ground sales and the marketing teams.
ABG: Will Brazilian growers’ feedback and needs inspire new BioConsortia products?
MMS: As nitrogen fixing isn’t country specific, and more tied to the crop, we research the microbes that colonize on corn, wheat, and soybeans. We focus our work on the key crops that we’re going after in Brazil.
However, from the Brazilian field, there will be a feedback loop to make sure we bring the best products to treat pests. We have world class nematocytes in our pipeline. We will be testing them to see which ones control best control the pests that that we find in Brazil.
ABG: Are you experiencing support from the Brazilian government in regard to increasing access to fertilizers for growers?
MMS: Brazilian growers saw the cost of fertilizer going up, because of the war and supply issues in 2022-2023. But even when fertilizer prices are low, I still think growers are wondering if there is a more cost-effective, sustainable way? And to be honest, we check all the boxes in being more sustainable and delivering ammonia for plant growth where and when it’s needed through the growing system. We are seeing a lot of support from growers, fertilizer companies, governments, and from NGOs. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer represents somewhere between 2% to 4% of all global greenhouse gases. These microbial solutions are going to be transformational and beneficial to the environment. They’ll be easy to use for the grower and deliver what they need for plant growth and yield increase.
Renee Targos, as Editor of AgriBusiness GlobalTM Direct magazine, leads in content development, event programming, and managing the ABG Board of Advisors and strategic growth of the magazine. Renee’s professional experience covers more than two decades of national and international digital and print content development, editing, and journalism. She received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and continued her education with master’s level courses in business administration and behavioral analysis. Renee has served as a board member for several Arizona-based non-profits and government commissions. See all author stories here.