It’s taken just five years for German giant BASF to grow from near obscurity to influential player in Australia’s cropping sector marketplace.
The world’s largest industrial chemical company has just added a new $14 million wheat and canola breeding centre to its Australian agricultural business, a division which did not exist before 2013.
BASF is also adding the broad spectrum glufosinate herbicide, Basta – previously sold by Bayer CropScience – to its locally registered range.
About five more new products developed by its agribusiness rival are set to be registered under BASF’s name in Australia in the next few years.
That is in addition to the 25 herbicide, fungicide and insecticides it already has in the pipeline for the Australian and NZ market.
Ag chem ownership shuffle
The growth spurt is largely courtesy of this year’s mega merger of the Monsanto and Bayer farm chemical and plant genetics businesses.
BASF has emerged from the washup with almost $12 billion worth of Bayer’s worldwide agricultural chemical and plant production assets.
To pull off its merger with Monsanto, Bayer was forced to offload a range of brands, facilities and technologies to comply with antitrust laws and demands from competition regulators around the globe, particularly in the US and Europe.
The deal eventually included Bayer’s plant breeding centre at Longerenong Agricultural College near Horsham in Victoria’s Wimmera, rights to its InVigor and LibertyLink canola hybrid varieties with triazine, glyphosate and glufosinate tolerant traits, and a pool of wheat and canola breeding research germplasm.
Overseas cotton and soybean seed businesses were also picked up by BASF which had not previously been involved with seeds production, non-selective herbicides or nematicide seed treatments.
Bayer’s Xarvio digital farm management and data platform will also find a new home beside BASF’s Maglis and Zedex disease, production and weather modelling systems.
The Longerenong site, which opened in 2014 with about 20 staff, complements BASF’s own crop chemical research station at Tamworth in NSW, developed from scratch in the past three years.
The acquisition officially absorbed the new assets from Bayer at the start of the month, increasing BASF’s Australian plant research, commercial and technical services staff numbers about 50 per cent.
“It’s a really exciting space for us to be in – we’re now strongly involved across Australia’s winter crop profile,” said BASF’s agriculture head for Australia and New Zealand, Gavin Jackson.
“We have a fully-fledged and leading canola seed business under the InVigor brand, including a local research and development platform, and a strong wheat breeding program.
“The resources we can now focus into Australia are probably second to none.”
Until 2013 BASF did not have an agribusiness business presence in Australia at all, having quit the market a decade earlier, leaving Nufarm with the rights to sell some of its crop protection sprays.
It’s early days yet, but we expect more commercial releases from the canola and wheat programs during the next three to five years.
Mr Jackson said the acquisition had significantly boosted the company’s knowledge base and technical capability in Australia and NZ and BASF’s chemistry and crop protection application technology for the entire cropping cycle in key field crops.
“We fully intend to continue investing in our local R&D to meet Australian farmers’ needs, particularly as the Longerenong site is such a neat fit with our research and development strategy,” he said.
“It’s early days yet, but we expect more commercial releases from the canola and wheat programs during the next three to five years.”
BASF’s new Tamworth crop chemical research site had already enabled the company to test and launch global products in Australian farmers faster than ever before.
This year Australia became the first country to to register Versys insecticide for aphid control, while a two new herbicides and fungicide may also have their global market debut in Australia.
President of BASF’s newly renamed agricultural solutions division, Markus Heldt, believed the company’s beefed up R&D capabilities globally and its strong seeds-to-harvest proposition would increase competition in the market.
“After months of preparing the seamless transfer of businesses and smooth onboarding of employees, everybody is keen to finally get started,” he said.
In Germany BASF’s board of executive directors chairman and chief technology officer, Dr Martin Brudermuller, said BASF had acquired excellent assets to enhance its innovation potential and ensure an even more attractive offering to customers.
The acquisition had transformed “the chemical company’s” position in agriculture.
BASF’s diverse international chemical business boasts subsidiaries in more than 80 countries with portfolios ranging from plastics and electronics to energy and pharmaceuticals.
It will now rank as the fourth biggest ag chemical and seed business behind ChemChina which now owns Syngenta and Adama, and the recently merged DuPont-Dow Chemical and Bayer-Monsanto businesses.
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