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This article was published 29/3/2017 (1234 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg agricultural biotech company is looking to unleash a new batch of bacteria onto Prairie crop fields and believes farmers are going to love it.
The three patented post-emergent biologicals — one for canola, one for corn, wheat and barley, and another for legumes — are based on a naturally occurring plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR).
XiteBio Technologies Inc. recently received regulatory approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to sell the bacteria in Canada, after a couple of years on the market in the United States.
"The active ingredient has never been registered before in Canada," company founder and CEO Manas Banerjee said.
Because canola is such a large crop in Western Canada, with about 20 million acres planted, Banerjee is optimistic it will become an important new product for the company.
"Nobody has such a canola product," Banerjee said. "Our background market is canola right here in Western Canada. That is the market we are looking for."
Fiercely independent — and private — Banerjee does not disclose sales numbers, but said the 15-person company has been growing by about 30 to 35 per cent cent every year.
Even with the much smaller canola acreage in the U.S., the company has sold out of its supply the past two years. The company launched its soybean PGPR product in Canada in 2013, again after getting regulatory approval more quickly in the U.S.
The product’s patented strain interacts with other bacteria in soil, unlocking phosphorous to let plants access that nutrient more easily. The result is increased yields across a growing portfolio of crops.
Stonewall-based Quarry Seeds distributes XiteBio to a network of about 70 independent dealers across Western Canada.
"XiteBio is a smaller, private company, and they don’t sell to everyone and their dog," said Shawn Rempel, general manager for Quarry Seeds. "They have done incredibly well with their soy and pulse products. They are unique and definitely not the cheapest."
One of the reasons for that is the company’s devotion to research and development. Banerjee said he wants to continue selling his biologicals as "scientific products."
"They have done their background research," Rempel said. "Farmers get thrown a lot of snake oil at them. They could spend thousands of dollars on products that may or may not give them a return on investment."
Banerjee said intensive testing has shown his new canola product will generate three to four bushels per acre of additional yield.
Tracey Maconacie, CEO of the Life Sciences Association of Manitoba, said Banerjee is continually modifying the technology and listening to farmer feedback.
"He is passionate about getting it into the hands of as many growers as possible," she said. "He is driven to have a hands-on approach and has been very successful at it."
A recent report from Dallas-based Orbis Research said the global market for so-called agricultural inoculants was estimated to be worth US$269.1 million in 2015 and is expected to reach US$525.4 million by 2022.
XiteBio continues to get its share of the market even though it’s up against global heavyweights such as Bayer, BASF and Dupont.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
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