• Roger Tripathi

Inspired by the success, we have added an additional 30 days of access to the BAW Congress platform (post-event) for networking, access to the conference room, revisit all presentations and Live Expo Booths, where you can still contact all sponsors at their booth.

If you missed out in joining, you can buy the package for $490 to access, you will only miss live Q&,A of course.

Photo of Kevin Helash, Marrone Bio logo, BAW logo
Kevin Helash, CEO, Marrone Bio Innovations

Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. is an international leader in providing growers with sustainable bioprotection and plant health solutions to support global agricultural needs. It provides biological based solutions for agricultural crops, turf protection, seed treatment, plant health, and waterway systems. As a leader in alternatives to conventional pesticides, MBII has a proven go-to-market strategy and remains on the cutting edge of developing the types of biological products in which today’s farmers are increasingly interested. We recently interviewed Kevin Helash, CEO of MBII, and talked about different aspects of the BioAg industry and MBII’s future plans.

Enjoy the read!

Q1. Biologicals are gaining farmers’ interest and also market. Though their need seems to be obvious, why is it taking so long for farmers to use and become comfortable with biologicals?

Biologicals are getting traction in all geographies. Recent market research shows double-digit growth for biologicals vs. low single-digit growth for conventional chemistry. However, the whole biological market is still a small fraction of the conventional market and the growth potential is important.

Biologicals will become mainstream if the industry is able to convince growers that biologicals achieved these three characteristics: efficacy, consistency, and affordability. Growers need solutions that bring benefits that solve their needs, including better pest control. Our industry needs to prove to growers, through in-field demonstrations, that biologicals are a key component of their pest programs, bringing additional control, yield, and profits.

Some of the biological solutions in the marketplace have shown excellent efficiency against a broad spectrum of pests, year after year, and field after field. MBI is particularly focused on proving high levels of return on investment when promoting its solutions to growers and agronomists.

Q2. MBI has got over 400 patents (including in process). What are the next upcoming innovative products and farmers should get ready for?

I am delighted to share with you the strong pipeline of solutions we are planning to launch in the short and long term. I expect incremental revenues of ~50M in the next five years and more than 100M in 2030 from our pipeline.

Seed and soil products: Several projects are ongoing; the majority are targeted at row crops (corn, soy, rice, and cereals) and high-value crops (Tree nuts, grapes, leafy vegetables) and expand from North America to European Union. A key project is based on our Burkholderia rinojensis microbial strain and will bring an enhanced version of our current seed treatment and soil applied products to increase pest control at lower rates.

Bio-Protection Products: These new solutions will help us expand beyond our current footprint and have a deeper penetration in the marketplace. I am happy to announce that MBI is planning to launch ReyZox™, one of the first pre-mix products that combine biologicals and traditional chemistry. In addition, we are making very good progress towards the development of our first herbicide, MBI-015.

Plant health products: We continue to focus on addressing key issues important to growers, such as zinc deficiency in corn and soy in LATAM, iron deficiency in EU, and improving conditions for better yields in row crops in North America. For example, Emergen™ and Pacesetter® are two products we’ll be launching soon in the U.S. Midwest to help increase yield and achieve a better return on investments.

This exciting pipeline is the result of our intense screening of more than 18,000 micro-organisms, robust patent position of more than 400 issued and pending patents worldwide as well as more than 3,000 trials performed in 23 countries through 2020.

Q3. MBI has seen tremendous growth. What expert advice would you like to give to new companies entering the market and striving to contribute to the BioAg Industry?

I’ll share a few ingredients that are essential to the success of any company, and MBI has consistently focussed on each of these year after year:

Listen to your customers: This seems obvious, but it takes a lot of leadership and discipline to achieve excellence here. It all starts and ends with listening to growers, understanding their pain points, building solutions that address their needs, and seeking in-field feedback to enhance the customer experience.

Build an A-class team: Leaders need to make sure they hire, motivate and retain the best of the best in the industry. Also equally important is to have a team that believes in the mission of the company and breathes its values. It is very hard to beat a team that listens to customers, works as one, and is dedicated to the commonly agreed-upon mission. I am very proud of the team we assembled at MBI.

Lead, do not follow: It is easy to get distracted in any industry by all the noise that we can hear around us. The focus should be on the long-term ambition and goals, not on the short-term variations that happen in the marketplace every season. MBI continues to invest resources in rapidly growing market segments as well as moon-shot types of projects that have the potential to transform the company and reshape our industry.

Q4. What steps should be taken to promote biologicals and make them vastly adopted to make agriculture sustainable?

Biologicals have obviously a great fit in the core organic market, however, I believe they are also important solutions to add to growers’ toolkit in non-organic settings. Today, most stakeholders talk about biologicals as a different category to traditional chemistry. I can see a day when growers, agronomists, and researchers will not differentiate between biologicals and other products; biologicals will be mainstream and part of every grower’s program.

MBI launched a couple of years ago its BioUnite™ concept, which is harnessing the power of biology with the performance of chemistry. We invested heavily in field development trials and large-scale grower demonstrations, to prove that the combination of our biological products with some of the leading chemistries allows growers to achieve higher yields and better return on investments. These combinations can either be tank-mixes, pre-mixes, and rotations in the fields and are proven recipes for success.

Q5. BioAg World Congress is an event by the industry for the industry. What brings MBI to BAW? How do you see your BAW participation befitting your growth?

MBI is always eager to participate in events that promote an exchange of ideas in the biological world and beyond. BAW is an excellent platform to discuss new innovations and trends with other leaders and shape our industry in the long term.

In addition, MBI is always seeking new growth opportunities, either through partnerships or M&A. The BioAg World Congress is an excellent platform to promote our innovative solutions and potentially find partners who could help us accelerate the implementation of these solutions, expand them beyond our original plan and scale them more rapidly in other market segments and geographies. I also expect some of the participants to have complementary technologies to MBI’s and our discussions could lead to the design of better solutions that fit our customers’ needs.

Marrone Bio Innovation Inc. is a BioAg World Congress 2021 supporter and sponsor. Keith Pitts, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sr. VP of Regulatory and Government Affairs will be presenting a talk at the congress. Join us at BAW Congress 2021 to learn more from these industry leaders and gain insights into the BioAg Industry. See you at the Congress!

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Updated: Mar 13

Dr. Venkatesh Devanur CEO AgriLife, Agri-Life logo, BioAg World Logo
Dr. Venkatesh Devanur, CEO, AgriLife

“Use or overuse of chemical fertilizer and toxic pesticides has resulted in serious depletion of beneficial bacteria in the soil. Reduced usage of organic fertilizer (Compost) has resulted in the erosion of organic matter/organic carbon. Soil health can be restored only if the beneficial microbes are allowed to re-colonize in the soil eco-system. R&D efforts and product development from AgriLife envisage betterment of Soil and Crop health.” believes Dr. Venkatesh Devanur, CEO of AgriLife. AgriLife is a research-based Agri-biotech manufacturing enterprise based in Hyderabad, India. The company is focused on bio solutions for crops and soils with a pan India presence since 1994 and a global presence since the year 2001.

Below is the crisp from our talk with Dr. Venkatesh. Enjoy reading!

Q1. AgriLife has the vision to promote organic inputs for agriculture. Though quite many areas in India are organic by default and on the contrary, there are some states which have excessive use of chemical inputs. Why is a huge gap in chemical use among different states and areas and how to minimize this gap?

India has about 145 million Ha of arable land and about 145 million farming families cultivate this land. Thus, the average farm size is just 1Ha per family. It is very difficult for a small and marginal farmer to earn a decent income from such a small farm. Therefore, there is a great emphasis on producing most from limited land. Irrigated land is more exploited for growing Rice and other Cash crops. Certain regions in India use a high volume of chemical Inputs and certain regions use very little volume. Subsidized Urea is used extensively at the cost of other nutrients making the plants week and susceptible to pest and diseases.

Export oriented crops like grapes, species, and tea are tested for about 200 chemical pesticide residues and get rejected for exports if MRL does not match. These farmers have started using Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, and Bio Stimulants. Basmati Rice farmers have also started using Bio Agri Inputs because of the compulsion of testing for export goods. AgriLife is promoting Bio Agri Inputs for Soil health and plant health.

Q2. You have a good R&D facility and have developed some very innovative and revolutionizing products. The Indian market has promising BioAg products from you and others in the Industry but still chemicals dominate. Why is the adoption of biologicals slow despite great products being available in the market?

The majority of farmers in India are small and marginal and want results very quickly. Knockdown of insects is a major criterion for buying an Insecticide. IPM approach is very difficult for a large number of small farmers. Bio Pesticides based on Neem are very popular as a Tank mix product with other conventional pesticides. Whereas microbial origin Bio Pesticides need certain specific climatic conditions of relative humidity and temperature. The performance of Bio Pesticides under such adverse climatic conditions can be erratic and therefore do not meet farmer’s expectations of quick delivery of conventional products.

Q3. There has been an element of doubt in users’ minds about the quality of agri-inputs. What measures has government and companies taken to ensure quality and generate confidence amongst users?

Govt. of India through its regulatory agencies for pesticides, fertilizers, Bio Stimulants, and seeds has developed a well-defined specification and quality standards. Most companies in the organized sector produce and market quality products. Regulatory agencies visit manufacturing facilities before issued of manufacturing license and take samples periodically from both factory and retail outlets in the market. The Agri Inputs market is highly monsoon dependent and depends heavily on unsecured credit from input suppliers. Therefore, some small parts of the input business may not conform to the expected standard and results in a gap of confidence.

Q4. AgriLife has great R&D, a strong product line, and is expanding into different geographies. What are the long term and short term plans of AgriLife for growth in the BioAg Industry?

AgriLife is focusing on Bio solutions for soils and crops. Producing products from sustainable resources that meet the expectations of farmers in terms of performance and no toxic residues has been our objective. As a long-term objective, AgriLife is focusing on dossier development for Bio Insecticides/ Bio Acaricides viz. Derisom ( Karanjin) and Anosom (Squamocin/ Annonin). These are all-weather Bio Pesticides with long Shelf life, with no adverse residue, and compatible with conventional products as a tank mix. As a short-term objective, we are focusing on soil health improvement products like Rootambio which has all Bio Fertilizer, Prebiotic, and Vitamins.

Q5. BioAg World Congress 2021 is the most sought-after event of the BioAg Industry. What advantage do you see for yourself and other Indian companies in joining BAW?

BAW is a unique platform and is an industry event in a true sense. It aims to address all the challenges and explore all possible opportunities in the BioAg Industry. It is a good opportunity for us to introduce our products at the Exhibition and network with delegates from across the world. We see this as a great marketing opportunity.

AgriLife is a BAW Congress 2021 sponsor. AgriLife is an innovation-triggered company with a robust product portfolio of target-oriented biologicals and botanicals. This is further deployed to formulate a wide range of Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, and Bio Stimulants. Its product range covers Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, Bio Stimulants, Nano Agri Inputs, and other Agri inputs. The recently launched product, AgriLife Rootambio®, is a natural product that nourishes and imparts vigor to the crop root system.

AgriLife groups In-house laboratory is recognized by the Govt of India, Dept of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) as an R&D unit where all innovations are met with high ethical standards and safety norms.

AgriLife's 40 strains of microbes are under an International patent deposit certificate from Budapest Treaty recognized depository and accorded accession numbers. The company has signed Access Benefit Sharing (ABS) Agreement with the state biodiversity board and pays a royalty to the habitat from where the microbes were isolated. This company also has a licensing agreement with many strains of microbes with ICAR (Indian council of agricultural research) and affiliated research centers and from Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health, Govt of India. Thus, all the microbial resources are legal and under National Biodiversity Act. Most of the products produced are approved for use in Organic Agriculture under NPOP, Govt of India. AgriLife head office is situated in Hyderabad, India with a production facility, as well as overseas affiliates situated in Singapore and the USA.

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