Syngenta, DSM Partner in Race for Bacteria-Based Crop Care

  • The two companies will collaborate on research and sales
  • Matches earlier moves by Monsanto, FMC to develop microbials

Syngenta AG said it will partner with enzyme-maker Royal DSM NV to develop microbial products for crops, matching earlier moves by Monsanto Co and FMC Corp in the race to develop bacteria- and fungi-based alternatives to crop chemicals.

The two companies will combine research and development efforts and jointly commercialize any products stemming from the partnership, Basel-based Syngenta said in a statement on Friday.

Faced with mounting R&D investment needs, leading agrochemical and seed producers are collaborating with companies in the specialized field of manufacturing tailor-made bacteria and microorganisms capable of fighting pests or enhancing the uptake of nutrients. Monsanto already works with Novozymes A/S, the world’s largest enzyme maker, while FMC tied with Chr Hansen A/S.

“We have been spearheading this area together with Monsanto for the past two years to grow the technology from niche to mainstream,” Thomas Videbaek, vice president of business development at Novozymes, said in an email. “Syngenta’s and DSM’s partnership can help further accelerate this.”

Agricultural companies are also suffering a slowdown in demand as lower crop prices curtail farmers’ spending on crop sprays and other additives designed to enhance yields. Moreover, consumer concern over the health impacts of chemicals on food and their impact on the environment is increasing.

Field Tests

The nascent market for microbial products was about $1.8 billion in 2014, while traditional fertilizers and pesticides totaled about $240 billion, according to a Novozymes report. Both FMC and Monsanto have said that their partnerships are performing better than expected.

After announcing a partnership two years ago, Monsanto and Novozymes have 2,000 strains across 500,000 field trial plots in a bid to transform and monetize intense levels of laboratory work. Videbaek said biological solutions are among the most promising new technologies to boost crop yields, though more research is needed.

“Over the next decade, use of biological solutions is set to record double-digit growth and by 2030 could represent up to 10 percent of the global crop protection market,” DSM said in a statement, citing Syngenta R&D head Trish Malarkey and DSM Chief Innovation Officer Rob van Leen.

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