Agrium expands its tech base

23 Jun, 2017 04:00 AM
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The Australian-developed Starpharma Priostar technology has benefits in weed control efficacy, chemical formulation stability and reducing the environmental affects of sprays.
The Australian-developed Starpharma Priostar technology has benefits in weed control efficacy, chemical formulation stability and reducing the environmental affects of sprays.

LANDMARK’S Canadian farm services and crop products parent Agrium Inc has bought another Australian venture, the Starpharma Holdings agrichemical business.

Biotechnology company Starpharma has sold its agrochemicals and Priostar activities for $35 million to Agrium’s United States subsidiary, Loveland Products.

The farm chemical operation is strongly focused on the development of its proprietary Priostar dendrimer polymer technology portfolio which is being used to improve the efficacy of farm chemical products, notably glyphosate.

The technology has benefits in weed control capability, chemical formulation stability and reducing the environmental affect of sprays.

The Australian Securities Exchange-listed Starpharma is primarily a pharmaceutical producer and research company, but it has several research and distribution partnerships with leading farm chemical companies, including ChemChina’s Adama business.

These partnerships will transfer to the new North American owner.

“Agrium is uniquely positioned to commercialise this technology across our 1500 agricultural retail centres, which service hundreds of thousands of growers in key agricultural markets globally,” said Agrium president and chief executive officer Chuck Magro.

Agrium’s retail activities including its big Loveland network, operate in North America, South America and Australia, and via distribution partners in 40 other countries.

The purchase involves key patents and technical know-how and staff working on Priostar dendrimers and farm chemical operations.

The small team in Melbourne involved with Priostar will join Landmark, which became part of Agrium when sold by AWB in late 2010.

Agrium itself is midway through a merger deal with Canadian fertiliser giant Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan – a one-time target of BHP Billiton.

That amalgamation is expected to create a $36 billion fertiliser behemoth.

Agrium said the Australian researchers and patents moving from Starpharma would support its own chemical innovation and technology strategy, allowing the company to “continue providing unique proprietary products that address existing and emerging grower challenges”.

The acquisition laid the foundations for more development and commercialisation of the dendrimer polymer technology in Loveland’s crop protection and specialty nutrition range.

It would help improve product performance and enhance Agrium’s offering to growers.

“This acquisition represents an exciting strategic technology platform for Loveland Products that will serve to further differentiate our proprietary product line and open new product development partnership opportunities,” Mr Magro said.

Starpharma chief executive officer Dr Jackie Fairly said the deal was a big win for her company, given analysts had valued the farm chemical business at only about $18m.

Agrium would give the Australian technology a direct market interface opportunity.

The technology otherwise would have been licensed out to other farm sector players taking many years to build up a patent revenue equal to what Agrium had just paid for the business.

Agrium’s global network boasts more than 3800 crop consultants who provide advice and products to grower customers.

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FarmWeekly
Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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