Syngenta and DSM team up to bring more biotech into agri

The two companies will jointly develop and market biotech products for pest control and plant growth.

Swiss agri-chemical giant Syngenta and international biotech company DSM will work together on a wide-ranging partnership to develop biotech applications for agricultural use.

The two companies will team up with a new research platform to create commercial products using micro-organisms for pest control and growth stimulants in agriculture. They will commercialise products created under the partnership, using DSM’s proprietorial microbial database and expertise, as well as Syngenta’s global agri connections and commercial agriculture knowledge. Syngenta’s research and development team will select what a press release termed the most “relevant” micro-organisms.

News of the new research partnership comes after Syngenta’s chief executive officer Mike Mack stepped down last month to be temporarily replaced by chief financial officer John Ramsey. After Syngenta rejected a $46 billion offer from Monsanto this summer, the company’s plans to increase profits had appeared unclear to some commentators. But as well as expanding its exploration work, there have also been reports of a possible deal with Dow Chemical for several months.

Syngenta is well-known for developing pesticides and seeds. It’s also not the only company exploring the science and commercial possibilities of bacteria and micro-organism-based crop solutions for which traditional fertilisers and pesticides are most widely used: Monsanto is working with enzyme-maker Novozymes towards similar ends.

DSM and Syngenta predict that over the next 10 years the use of biological solutions will record double-digit growth. They add that by 2030 these kind of solutions could represent up to 10 percent of the global crop protection market.

Syngenta’s new venture with DSM could also tap into the Dutch company’s experience of setting up and funding research projects with a focused environmental bent. Earlier this year, the company funded a scientific team at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to research a new compound that could be added to cattle feed to reduce the amount of methane the animals produce.

The groups believe that biological crop protection will grow to as much as 10 percent of the global market by 2030. A Novozymes report published last year estimated that the microbial products market was worth around $1.8 billion.

“New microbial-based solutions will contribute to meeting the challenge of producing more food from fewer resources, benefiting farmers, consumers, the environment and society,” said Syngenta R&D head Trish Malarkey in a statement. “Our collaboration with DSM brings together breakthrough science and the ability to formulate and deliver biological tools on a global scale.”