Ospraie-backed Marrone Bio’s new CEO targets rapid revenue growth

Kevin Helash says he expects consolidation among biologicals producers to gather pace in the next 12-24 months, as investors focus on strengthening the sub-sector’s early leaders.

Kevin Helash
Kevin Helash: new CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations

Marrone Bio Innovations‘ new chief executive officer Kevin Helash said his initial focus will be on improving revenue growth and margin expansion for the biological inputs provider.

“There is a very clear mission to drive this company towards cashflow positive as quickly as possible,” Helash told Agri Investor. “We are certainly very open to looking at collaborations – in looking at acquisitions or licensing of other people’s technology and working together to bring those products to the marketplace.”

Another focus for the New York Stock Exchange-traded company will be continuing research and development efforts aimed at developing new biologicals, he said, to expand on MBI’s current offering of 10 EPA-approved retail products that include biostimulants and biologically derived pest management offerings, among others.

Helash replaces the Ospraie Management-backed company’s founder Pam Marrone, who will remain with the business in a consulting position. Davis, California-based MBI announced earlier this month that Helash will start his new role in August and will join the company’s board of directors.

He joins MBI from Agrinos, another Davis-based startup offering biological inputs, where he served as chief executive since November 2017. Prior to this, he held several roles at Canadian fertilizer company Agrium (which re-branded to Nutrien following its merger with rival PotashCorp in 2018). Helash’s LinkedIn profile confirms one of these roles was head of Canadian retail operations, a position that saw him lead Agrium’s acquisition of Viterra’s retail agribusiness from Glencore International in 2012.

Helash told Agri Investor his time with Agrium brought him into contact with growers, retailers, distributors and investors from around the world, many of whom have had their focus on biological inputs sharpened by strengthening regulation. Although he said he was not aware of any specific impending changes that would have a drastic impact on input markets, Helash added new regulations will continue to shape demand for biologicals.

“There may be some bumps in the road in terms of the regulatory process, the space is evolving quite quickly,” he said. “The entire regulatory field as it relates to crop inputs is changing and it appears there is going to be more government oversight into the sector and we will see where things ultimately end up.”

Investor interest in biologicals has remained strong in recent years, according to Helash, who credited a generalized focus on sustainability as one of the main drivers. Given that the biologicals market has been developing for some time, he added, there is likely to be consolidation in the coming one to two years, as investors focus on strengthening the sub-sector’s early leaders.

“There is certainly no shortage of discussions going on,” Helash said. “There is more than ample capital in the market to fund companies that have a good product line, a good story and a good runway to be cash positive.”