Firms partner to distribute product

DURHAM, NC — Phosphate solubilization products from Novozymes Bioag of Saskatoon will soon be reaching farm fields outside of North American through the Swiss company Syngenta.

The JumpStart technology that was born in Alberta and Saskatchewan is spreading worldwide thanks to an agreement between the companies.

Penicillium bilaii is a soil fungus that excretes acids capable of dissolving and making otherwise soil-bound phosphate available to plants.

Research has shown that the fungus can improve early season phosphate availability to plants, which can translate into healthier crops with improved yields.

The fungus was first isolated at Agriculture Canada’s Lethbridge research centre in 1981 and later commercialized by Philom Bios of Saskatoon in 1986. Danish company Novozymes bought Philom Bios in 2007.

Novozymes estimates the global market for JumpStart and other seed applied technologies to be $100 million annually and that Syngenta will help the company achieve more of those international sales.

Vern Hawkins, Syngenta’s North American market director, said the partnership is a good fit for his company’s biological solutions business, citing a strong track record for JumpStart in North America.“Our seed care business is focused on stacking technologies on the seed that protect it, enhance plant performance and make those plants more efficient. And that’s what this product does,” he said.

Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, head of biotechnology for Syngenta, said the company is looking to expand its product line to meet producers’ needs. It will partner with others when it doesn’t own a product or patent or have expertise in a specific area.

Thomas Videbaek of Novozymes said in a statement that the new distribution relationship meets its goals of worldwide expansion for the pro-duct.

Novozymes’ Trevor Thiessen said Syngenta didn’t rush into the new relationship, taking a couple of years to do its due diligence and test the Jumpstart.

“When they confirmed our science and committed to distribute (JumpStart), it was a big event in the history of our company,” he said.

“We are a small company compared to Syngenta. Their distribution power will put our products into markets that we couldn’t serve.… We have about 35 sales and marketing people on the ground in North America and we do a pretty good job, but as they put JumpStart into their corn and wheat business, that takes a lot of capacity that we don’t have.”

Novozymes will meet the additional demand by using pre-planned plant expansion capacity that was built into the most recent work in Saskatoon. It can also use processing facilities in the United States and South America that it acquired when it bought EMD Biosciences.

“It’s a problem we look forward to having,” said Thiessen.

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