Exclusive: Pam Marrone on Biologicals in 2014

Originally Published on FarmChemicalsInternational.com

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FCI: What is the business outlook for your company this year and the next five years?

PM: We are very excited that we became a publicly traded company in August 2013, creating a new category for high growth ag-bio stock. And we are enjoying strong sales growth in 2013 due in large part to the great support of our partners selling our products into new markets and a very successful national launch for our Grandevo bioinsecticide. As we look out over the next five years, we have made a commitment to ourselves and to our shareholders that we will introduce one to two new products a year through 2017. This effort will keep all of our departments, from R&D to field sales, very busy. We also expect significant international expansion. We continue to advance our pipeline of internal discoveries and also we will be announcing some new ln-licensed products in the future. 

FCI: Where do you see Marrone Bio Innovations in the future?

PM: With biopesticide category sales growing three times faster than conventional pesticides (ca. 15% compared to 5-6%) we think we are very well-positioned for the future. We will continue to expand through launch of new products, expansion into new crop segments, additional acres and new customers on the crops we are already selling into. I see us greatly expanding our global presence both through our multinational distribution partners, Syngenta (EAME for Regalia) and FMC (LATAM for Regalia) and new products like Grandevo and Venerate through regional distributors. We will be hiring our own staff in LATAM and Europe as we move Grandevo and Venerate insecticides into regions outside the U.S. We recently gained permission from the Brazilian authorities to test Grandevo and Regalia has been advancing through the full regulatory process there. Grandevo registration was submitted to Mexico. We announced Regalia registration approvals in three new LATAM countries.

In December, we fermented our first batch of Grandevo in our manufacturing plant in Michigan. This is an exciting milestone for the company as we, over time, expect to produce most, if not all of our products there.

FCI: What new products/services are you introducing to the ag market?

PM: Our product strategy includes launching new products, entering new markets, and expanding into new geographies. In 2013, we launched Regalia Rx, a new product in our Regalia biofungicide family for plant health foliar treatment. The product was our entry into the row crop (i.e., corn, soybeans) segment. We teamed up with Titan SC Pro as our distributor and I am pleased to report that we are wrapping up a successful first season of sales, demonstrating significant yield increases of corn and soybeans and increased corn test weight. We expect to expand into canola, wheat and rice in 2014 as well.

Venerate will soon be approved by the U.S. EPA. It is based on a new species of bacteria that we discovered that produces compounds that kill a broad range of pest insects on contact. It will be complementary to Grandevo, which kills insects when they feed. Both products are very soft on beneficials, including bees.

We also are doing a small launch of a herbicide, Opportune, into organic trees and vines. This is a bioherbicide with broad spectrum pre-emergence activity and selective post emergence activity. It has a new mode of action so will offer a new tool for organic growers at first and then as we bring the cost of production down, for conventional growers. We are the only biopesticide company with a large portfolio of herbicide candidates in our pipeline. We are excited about MBI-010, which is based on systemic compounds produced by a new species of bacteria we discovered. MBI-010 will be submitted to the EPA in the first half of 2014.

We have additional products for crop stress reduction and plant health we will be launching in the latter half of 2014.

We are pleased that our 2013 field trials of our nematicide candidates all show good activity against soybean cyst nematode. We will be expanding trials in 2014 across the U.S. and LATAM.

FCI: What do you see as the market trends for biopesticides in general?

PM: The big companies continue to jump into this segment, most recently the news that Novozymes and Monsanto teamed up on biopesticide discovery, development and marketing. The large companies entering biopesticides give more credibility to the space and that helps us all. MBI’s strategy is to team up with large companies where appropriate, as there are some segments that we won’t be able to reach as well alone. MBI’s strength is our head start – now having had several years screening, developing a pipeline and launching multiple products – our speed and innovation and ability to develop high performing products that provide value to our customers. We see a strong role for new start-up biopesticide companies since that is where most of the innovation will come from and from fast-moving independent companies like MBI. In any industry, it is important to have a diverse ecosystem of small, medium and large companies.

In closing, I see ag biologicals for crop protection and crop production as the third main technology to be able to feed the world sustainably. You hear all the time that in order to feed the world, we still need chemicals and we need GM crops. Biologicals are the third leg and ultimately could be the dominant technology over time.

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