Agtech Perspectives From Two Days With the Crop Chemicals Crowd

Frank Vinluan for Xconomy:  Spraying chemicals on crops has been a standard farming practice for decades. Pesticides and fungicides aren’t going away, but they are ceding some ground to new biological products that aim to help plants in different ways.

The past year has seen market launches for microbial products developed to help plants resist stresses from pests and harsh environmental conditions. Some of this year’s corn, soy, and cotton crops have been grown with microbial treatments jointly developed by Novozymes (NASDAQ OMX: NZYM) and Monsanto (NYSE: MON). Applied as seed coatings, the companies say these microbes grow with the plant, promoting a healthy plant microbiome that leads to hardier plants and better crop yields.

Beneficial microbes have the potential to be the next disruptive technology in agriculture, according to Roger Beachy, chair of the science advisory board for Indigo, a Boston agtech startup that has launched its own microbial treatments in five crops. Speaking Wednesday at the Crops & Chemicals Conference in Raleigh, NC, Beachy said Indigo’s approach is to study the microbes that are already in the plant microbiome and identify the ones that benefit a plant as a result of having jointly evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Rather than changing nature, Beachy says Indigo is working with what’s already there.

While I’m familiar with the work from Novozymes and Indigo, having written about those companies’ microbial R&D previously, I got a broader perspective about industry developments from Crops & Chemicals. The conference is held annually in Raleigh but this year was my first time in attendance. Here are some quick takeaways from two days spent mingling with innovators developing and testing new agricultural technologies.  Full Article:

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