Nutrien Ag Solutions acquires new biocontrol technology

June 17, 2024

Nutrien Ag Solutions has made a significant stride in the agricultural technology sector with the acquisition of Suncor Energy’s AgroScience assets, marking a strategic expansion into the biocontrol market.

The acquisition includes several patented and patent-pending technologies, notably a chlorin-based photosensitizer aimed at revolutionizing integrated pest management (IPM) worldwide.

The newly acquired technology, developed by Suncor Agroscience, represents a breakthrough in biocontrol solutions. Unlike traditional synthetic crop protection inputs, this chlorin-based photosensitizer offers a novel mode of action that enhances efficacy while supporting resistance management strategies.

The company states that initial research and field trials have demonstrated its capability to deliver exceptional pest and disease control, stability and economic value, comparable to conventional chemistries.

Casey McDaniel

Casey McDaniel, Vice President of Loveland Products, the proprietary brand of Nutrien Ag Solutions, highlighted the strategic significance of the acquisition as Nutrien’s first step into the biocontrol segment. He emphasized the potential of the chlorin-based photosensitizer to address global agriculture challenges effectively, supporting yield maximization and sustainability goals.

“This acquisition is in line with where our ambitions are with novel, patented, and highly effective technologies that continue to advance grower yields and crop quality,” said McDaniel.

The chlorin-based photosensitizer formulations are expected to debut in select global markets by 2025, with regulatory submissions to the EPA in the U.S. anticipated by 2026. Nutrien Ag Solutions plans to integrate these innovative solutions into its extensive Loveland Products portfolio.

“As our first novel innovation in the biocontrol segment, this technology will complementing leadership position in the biostimulant market. We’ve been actively exploring synergies in biotechnologies, evident from our recent agreements with Ascribe Biosciences and Elemental Enzymes,” noted McDaniel.

Innovating biocontrol with natural solutions
Francisco Manzano Mier, Director of Global Business Development at Nutrien, discussed the technological advancements inherent in the chlorin-based photosensitizer. “Derived from naturally abundant chlorophyll, this compound leverages existing industrial scale production capabilities,” Manzano explained. “Its formulation into a biocide represents a breakthrough in agricultural biocontrol, effectively addressing scalability challenges faced by many biological products.”

The technology’s unique mode of action is based on ‘photo dynamic inactivation’. Once the product is sprayed and is in contact with the pest or the pathogen, exposure to light will cause the active ingredient to release reactive oxygen species that damage the cellular walls of the pest and/or the pathogen. In the case of insects, the photosensitizer will pierce through their cuticle and exoskeleton, causing these pests to lose the ability to retain fluid and the ability to thermoregulate, leading to mortality. “On the pathogen, the same things happen, piercing through the organism, it essentially leads to dehydration and death as well,” said Manzano.

Francisco Manzano Mier

He emphasized the product’s dual benefits of stability and efficacy, supported by more than140 third-party studies. “This technology not only outperforms existing natural alternatives but often matches synthetic chemistry standards,” he pointed out.

Manzano also highlighted its environmental benefits, citing its non-toxic mode of action and compatibility with IPM practices.

Manzano said from a pest perspective, the produce will work best “on soft bodied insects. So, sucking, chewing insects, your aphids, your thrips, your whitefly, mites as well,” he says. “On disease control, it’s broad spectrum because of the mode of action. The disease has to be above soil – under soil there’s no light. If there’s no light, there’s no activation of the compound.”

Another exciting aspect of this technology is the fact that it is a curative fungicide – killing the disease on contact. According to Manzano, it’s not technically a preventative fungicide, but it will prevent the development of the disease if sprayed during the early stages of disease establishment.

Future outlook and market implications
Regarding market scalability and partnerships, McDaniel emphasized leveraging existing global networks to expedite market entry and optimize product deployment strategies. “Collaborations with partners across Europe, Africa and Asia will accelerate our efforts to establish a robust presence in these regions,” he affirmed.

With plans for imminent market introductions and ongoing regulatory engagements, Nutrien Ag Solutions anticipates a swift commercialization timeline. McDaniel said the technology’s broad- spectrum efficacy against a range of pests and diseases, coupled with its curative properties, positions it as a versatile tool for farmers adopting integrated pest management strategies.

Moreover, its stability and cost-effectiveness make it a viable alternative to traditional chemicals, appealing to markets increasingly focused on sustainable agricultural practices.

He added that the technology “fits nicely into our current production options. We believe we can take this technology right into our current crop protection manufacturing assets and scale it.

“Biologicals are important next-step tools for elevating the potential in every field,” said McDaniel. “In the coming months and years, we aim to bring more of these types of offerings to market under the Loveland brand or partner brands for farmers of all scales and in all geographies.”

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