What They Said
Just last month, in December 2016, the BioAg Alliance announced it had co-developed its first product, a corn inoculant seed treatment, branded Acceleron B-300 SAT. Monsanto and Novozymes have not disclosed many details about the inoculant, other than that it contains a fungal species isolated from soil, and field trials of the inoculant in corn has demonstrated an average yield increase of 4 bu/ac in the U.S. Monsanto will apply the product to all of its 2017 corn hybrids, including its DEKALB and Channel brands. Monsanto will pre-coat seed before shipping it to retailers and farmers, calling the treatment the first “upstream” corn inoculant ever developed. Monsanto already provides downstream seed treatments through its Seed Applied Solutions division. Farmers can choose to coat corn, soy, and cotton seed with insecticide, fungicide, and nematicide (see figure).
2016 was a turning point for the bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC) space as the industry realigned to sustained low oil prices, shifting consumer demand, and emerging regulatory drivers. In our latest report, we highlight the big bets investors placed in 2016 (client registration required). To emphasize these trends, we round-up some of the major announcements throughout the year and summarize them into the three key themes outlined below: Continue reading
Synthetic biology (“synbio”) initially attracted high-profile venture capitalists and corporate partnerships for its products – bio-based chemicals and alternative fuels, for example. Today, synbio companies tools are attracting attention as well – from lab automation like DNA synthesis-as-a-service, to software (i.e. BioCAD and BioLIMS), and new genetic engineering tools (i.e. CRISPR). By integrating machine-learning, robotics, and high-throughput engineering, companies like Ginkgo Bioworks and Zymergen are helping customers dramatically reduce the timeline for developing new molecules in the flavor and fragrance, food ingredient, medical, agricultural, and specialty chemicals markets – a key reason that those two startups each raised more than $100 million in 2016. This podcast highlights Lux’s thoughts on the impact of these tools in and beyond in synbio, and the rapidly developing ecosystem of startups within the space.
To listen to the podcast, click here.
By: Mark Bünger and Victor Oh
Last week at the 2016 Biofabricate conference in New York City, Adidas unveiled its Futurecraft Biofabric concept shoe, which uses Germany-based AMSilk’s Biosteel® synthetic spider silk fiber as the upper mesh. Adidas expects to release the performance shoe to market next year, according to Adidas’ James Carnes (VP of Global Brand Strategy), but the first product will be in “limited quantities” and at a “higher price.” After the initial launch, Adidas also plans to expand the product line using AMSilk’s Biosteel® with other shoe models or possibly even apparel. Notably, for AMSilk, the Adidas partnership follows a series of major announcements this year including signing four sales distribution agreements with RAHN, Zeus QuÍmica, Biochim, and Hanjoo, as well as raising additional capital to increase production capacity and expand product development. Continue reading
Walmart recently released its “Sustainable Packaging Playbook,” where it provides best practices for suppliers looking to improve and innovate sustainable packaging. It emphasizes that these sustainable packaging best practices are meant to compliment business needs, which is to say going “green” does not mean sacrificing performance. Walmart highlighted three innovation pillars in its playbook:
DuPont is reportedly going to sell off some of its herbicides to assuage antitrust concerns, pending its upcoming merger with Dow AgroSciences. No specific herbicide portfolios or buyers are announced as of now, but details are likely will be released soon if Dow AgroSciences and DuPont hope to close the merger by the end of 2016.
We can expect that DuPont will divest one of its older herbicide portfolios, rather than letting go of one of its newer herbicide brands like its newly announced FeXapan brand. Other possible brands that DuPont may divest include its Breakfree and Cinch herbicides. These two brands of herbicides come in various formulations, some of which contain active ingredients atrazine, acetochlor, and S-metolachlor. Breakfree and Cinch target common grasses and broadleaf corn weeds, including foxtail and pigweed. The Breakfree and Cinch brands comprise eight out of 33 of DuPont’s current herbicide products approved for use in the U.S. targeting corn and soybean weeds. These products may be likely targets for divestiture because the safety of one active ingredient present in some formulations, atrazine, has recently been questioned by several regulatory agencies. In September of 2016, the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) released a draft ecological risk assessment recommending the ban of atrazine. Similarly, California listed atrazine as a reproductive toxin in July 2016. The changing regulatory attitudes surrounding atrazine may push DuPont toward divesting this specific technology, especially while the company is under pressure to trim its herbicide business. Continue reading
Bio-based performance materials (bioperformance materials), such as nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) and spider silk, have received considerable interest for their impressive mechanical properties. However, in spite of the considerable hype surrounding use of these materials, few have been developed for widespread adoption. Developers of bioperformance materials that can overcome challenges such as applications development, market demand, and cost of production can expect a significant ROI.
Feeding the expected 9 billion global population has been an issue of attention over the last few years. Even more concerning is the feasibility of feeding those people while the rate of yield growth in major agricultural crops is decreasing. It seems impossible to squeeze any more yield per acre out of major agricultural crops. For any commercial crop, actual agricultural yields observed today are lower than the crop’s theoretical maximum yield, its genetic “glass ceiling.” The following figure illustrates this concept, where theoretical yield is constrained by an upper bound, and actual yield increases as it approaches the boundary.
Last week, Neste announced a partnership with IKEA to develop bio-based plastics for use in IKEA’s home furnishing products. According to Neste’s press release, the partners openly “invite other companies to join the initiative” to reduce dependence on petroleum-based materials and “address the growing market for bio-based products.” IKEA and Neste aim to produce the first proof-of-concept product during 2017.
In 2014, IKEA released its Sustainability Strategy Report highlighting commitments to source all plastic for its home furnishing product line from 100% renewable and/or recycled material by August 2020. Since then, the company has formed a series of partnerships in the bio-based space, including a supply, collaboration, and technology license agreement with Newlight Technologies in March 2016 (client registration required for both). The most recent partnership with Neste further emphasizes IKEA’s leadership in commercializing bio-based products, especially against the tide of low crude oil prices and nascent regulatory drivers. Continue reading
China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (FYP) includes intentions to focus on science and technology, specifically clearing a path to support approvals of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for agriculture. Approvals will be prioritized first for indirectly edible cash crops, then for edible crops. Because of corn’s myriad non-food and ingredient uses, GMO corn varieties will likely be first up, with GMO soybeans following close behind. These policies align well with additional plans to reduce emissions per unit GDP and to increase the proportion of the country’s energy use that comes from non-fossil fuels. Thanks to their status as a legume crop with less reliance on chemical fertilizers, soybeans are up to the task of reducing emissions from agriculture. For the world’s most populous country, even small moves that affect the food supply can have worldwide implications. Even though there is significant uncertainty in predicting exactly when things might change, we’ll take a look at some of those potential global impacts, and what they could mean for you and your business. Continue reading