Microbes unite Novozymes and Monsanto

A Correction to this article was published on 08 July 2014

This article has been updated

Novozymes of Copenhagen and Monsanto of St. Louis last December announced a joint global venture, which they are calling the BioAg Alliance, whose purpose is to discover, develop and market microbial products with which farmers can increase yields while reducing inputs, according to the two companies. The joint venture aims to “unleash the transformational opportunity in naturally derived microbial solutions in agriculture,” says Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen. His company reported revenues of about $120 million in the microbiologically-based agricultural biologicals market for 2012. Coincidentally, late last year, the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) in Washington, DC, released its report, How Microbes Can Help Feed the World. It outlines a similar vision for agriculture, one in which microorganisms are seen as leading to “an entirely new approach to enhancing [crop] productivity,” according to the AAM report. “Most of this potential, I believe, has yet to be discovered,” says Ian Sanders of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, who chaired the AAM colloquium responsible for that report. In the face of many such products that fail to meet expectations, he says, the BioAg Alliance could advance development with their expertise in field testing and product evaluation. The time frame for development is another big question, he adds. “While Monsanto and Novozymes might have an alliance to develop and sell what they have now, are they going to be doing basic research to find out what's out there that could be used in the future?” he asks. Applying microbial solutions in agriculture is at such an early stage that much basic research is needed to find out what could be useful. “With respect to the alliance, I don't know how much of the basic biology research will be done by such large companies. But we probably will never know what's out there, if it's kept in the private sector.”

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  • 29 May 2014

    In the version of this article initially published, it was stated that the BioAg Alliance's work involves microbial enzymes. The alliance will discover, develop and commercialize microbial solutions for agriculture. The error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

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Fox, J. Microbes unite Novozymes and Monsanto. Nat Biotechnol 32, 211 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0314-211b

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