AgBiome Lines Up More Alliances in Fungicides and Soil Health

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AgBiome has developed and commercialized its biological agricultural products by striking up alliances with larger companies in the industry. Now the company has three more partnerships, two that will bring its flagship fungicide to new global markets and another pact aiming to develop new products supporting soil health.

The first fungicide partnership, with the agricultural solutions division of BASF, covers the biological fungicide that Research Triangle Park-based AgBiome markets in the U.S. under the name Howler. BASF will handle the development, registration, and commercialization of that fungicide in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. If the product is successfully registered with regulatory authorities, the companies expect it could enter the market in select countries in those regions in 2024 or 2025.

Howler is AgBiome’s first fungicide, and it’s currently registered in every U.S. state except Hawaii. AgBiome developed Howler with its Genesis technology, which screens collections of microbes to find the ones best suited for agricultural applications. Howler is based on a strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas chloroaphis and the fungicide employs multiple modes of action against a broad spectrum of diseases that spread through the soil and plant leaves.

AgBiome salad greenhouse
AgBiome's salad greenhouse. -- AgBiome photos

AgBiome says Howler is effective against multiple diseases, including Pythium, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, and Botrytis. BASF plans to make the fungicide available for use in vegetables and ornamental plants, as well as for turf applications such as golf courses. According to Marco Moorfeld, BASF’s vice president for market management in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia, the AgBiome fungicide fits BASF’s strategy to add biological products to its portfolio.

“We believe that the complementary combination of conventional crop protection and bio solutions is the way forward for sustainable agriculture and we are convinced that strong partnerships in the industry are essential to bring more innovations to the market,” he said in a prepared statement.

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the partnership.

Howler is entering Asia for the first time under a different alliance. An AgBiome subsidiary has signed a commercial supply agreement with FarmHannong of South Korea. The agrochemical company is one of that country’s largest suppliers of crop protection products, fertilizers, and seeds. The firm, founded in 1953, also positions itself as a green bio company that supports sustainable farming. For example, FarmHannong sells “functional fertilizers” that offer controlled release and are water soluble, features that the company says save on labor and protect the environment.

AgBiome says Howler has proven to be effective on several major crops in South Korea, including vegetable and fruit crops. The company expects that sustainable agricultural practices will help drive the growth of the biofungicides market in Asia. Financial terms of the agreement with FarmHannong were not disclosed.

The BASF and FarmHannong alliances follow the late March announcement that AgBiome will work with The Mosaic Company, a Fortune 500 company that generated nearly $8.7 billion in total global sales last year. Tampa, Florida-based Mosaic is a producer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients. The company has signed on AgBiome to help it discover, develop, and launch new biological products that make soil more fertile.

AgBiome brings to the alliance its Genesis technology. Mosaic is contributing its expertise in soil health and soil product development. In a statement, Kim Nicholson, vice president of ag technology and innovation at Mosaic, said AgBiome is one of several partners that Mosaic is working with to expand the company’s soil health offerings. 

No financial terms were disclosed for the Mosaic’s alliance with AgBiome. But if the research successfully yields new products, they’ll be added to Mosaic’s soil health portfolio, which the global company markets through its extensive distribution and sales channels.

Other AgBiome R&D partners include Paris-based Genective, which is working with the company to develop corn traits resistant to insect pests.

Frank Vinluan, NCBiotech Writer
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