Plant Response Acquires Florida Firm, Teams with Koch
Plant Response, a Spanish agricultural biologicals company with North American headquarters in Durham, has expanded its capabilities by acquiring a Florida-based microbial science company.
Plant Response acquired Pathway BioLogic of Plant City, Fla., to broaden its portfolio of biological products for agriculture.
Tom Warner, board chairman of Plant Response, said Pathway BioLogic would provide fermentation capabilities, manufacturing capacity and commercial product skills, bolstering Plant Response’s ability to create value for partners and farmers in multiple categories, including intrinsic yield improvement, abiotic stress tolerance, increased nutrient use efficiency and enhanced plant innate immunity.
“We will offer multiple technology platforms such as live microbes, extracts and biosimilar molecules to solve growers’ targeted issues,” Warner said. “To our knowledge, no other ag biologicals company combines these powerful capabilities into one entity that is working to bring the science of nature to growers across the globe.”
Michael Gans, co-founder and director of operations of Pathway BioLogic, said his company was impressed by Plant Response’s agronomic and commercial capabilities.
“The ability to expand Pathway’s commercial reach and be part of a broad product portfolio was a great incentive to become part of the Plant Response team,” he said.
Pathway offers plant growth-promoting Rhizobacteria products that produce enhanced root growth and early growth establishment. The formulations are compatible with a wide range of fertilizers and chemicals and may be used in conjunction with Plant Response products in the future, Gans said.
Plant Response is developing novel natural products that confer drought resistance, increase yield and enhance plant responses to stress. The company’s products are intended to reduce the need for chemicals, enabling more sustainable crop production.
Plant Response has a number of products registered and approved for commercial sale in the U.S. market and additional products under state and federal regulatory review. The company said it hoped to begin sales in the fourth quarter of this year.
Joint venture with Koch
The acquisition of Pathway comes on the heels of a joint venture by Plant Response Biotech and Koch Biological Solutions, a subsidiary of Koch Agronomic Services, owned by Koch Industries, in Wichita, Kan. The deal, signed in November 2019, combines Plant Response’s expertise in screening plant responses to biologicals at the cellular level with Koch’s expertise in biological modes of action at the genetic and whole-plant level.
Tom Snipes, chief executive officer of Plant Response, noted that in 2016 Koch Biological Solutions acquired a minority stake in Pathway BioLogic.
“We could not be more excited to build on what Koch initiated, and many on the combined team have deep working relationships,” Snipes said. “This investment will enable us to move forward together quickly on multiple levels, including R&D, joint development opportunities, manufacturing and commercial activities.”
Plant Response was founded in Madrid in 2008 as a spin-out of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. The company chose the Research Triangle area for its North American headquarters in 2017.
While it scouted permanent office and greenhouse space in the region, Plant Response leased temporary space at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center through the Center’s Landing Pad program. The program helps newly arrived bioscience companies establish a presence in the state by providing prime office space and professional services.
NCBiotech staff “have been absolutely wonderful to work with and continue to be,” Snipes said at the time. “They did a great job of facilitating introductions and identifying infrastructure in the area.”
Plant Response considered locating on the West Coast or in St. Louis but instead chose the Triangle, “well-known as a global hub for agricultural innovation technology, making this the perfect epicenter for our North American operations,” Snipes said in 2017.
The North American headquarters in Durham, located on Capitola Drive near Research Triangle Park, now has seven employees, including the CEO, chief operating officer, head of agronomy and head of product development. The company said it plans to set up both lab and greenhouse space “in the near future.”
The addition of Pathway expands Plant Response’s North America operations to Plant City, Fla, complementing the recently added Koch Biological Solutions R&D site in Hayward, California. About 10 employees work at the Florida site and 13 at the California site.
Plant Response has 14 employees in Spain, where it has Europe, Middle East and Africa R&D and commercial operations, labs and greenhouses.