The global scramble to find cheaper, low emission energy sources has Nufarm boss, Greg Hunt, tipping his company's earnings from new age fuel crops and other useful seed technologies can match crop protection revenue in 10 years.
While its core crop chemical business is also tracking for greater global growth, it is the fast emerging opportunity in energy crops and omega-3 oilseed products for aquaculture and human nutraceuticals which could really propel Nufarm to a new level.
Seed production for its (non-food) oilseed cover crop and aircraft biofuel ingredient, Carinata, is being backed by oil and gas giant BP, which plans to quadruple its own bioenergy business this decade.
Nufarm's Nuseed division has forecast by 2030 it could provide the low carbon feedstock for about 4 billion litres of sustainable aviation fuel every year.
Within two years the international aviation industry wants sustainable jet fuel (including recycled vegetable oil) to represent two per cent of the 200b litres it burns annually, while the European Union is targeting 5pc by 2030.
"Australian agriculture has traditionally focused on food production, but there is now a generational opportunity to participate in a step change, growing forms of energy, fuels and other industrial and consumer products," said the Nufarm managing director.
Aside from the opportunity to help de-risk the war-disrupted global energy market, Mr Hunt said the carbon reduction advantages were obvious.
"There's a lot of talk about how the electric vehicle revolution will solve the world's automotive emissions, but I think the notion of full conversion to EVs is just not possible," he said.
"So, what's wrong with aiming for maybe half the world's cars running on plant-based fuels, where at least their carbon emissions will be 80pc less than today."
Nufarm's biofuel push also promises farmers handy extra cover crop rotation returns from its new brassica, while at the same time sequestering huge extra volumes of carbon dioxide - as much as 8 million tonnes a year, worldwide.
Nuseed's Carinata, developed in Canada as a high biomass, water efficient and heat tolerant industrial oil crop, was trialled in Queensland last decade and found suitable to grow mid-season in typical summer crop rainfall zones.
Mr Hunt said it may also have a role as a primary crop in more marginal areas such as West Australia's eastern wheatbelt.
It already grew commercially in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay with US plantings now happening in Texas, while a Brazilian launch was due next year.
Commercial-scale Australian trial plantings were possible next winter, too.
Also on the fuel front was a sugar cane alternative, known simply as energy cane, which promised to make more productive use of lower yielding cane country.
It produces 150pc more biomass than conventional cane, and can then be converted into biofuel or to fuel electricity generators.
In September Nufarm paid $37m to buy Brazilian company GranBio's energy cane germplasm and related technology to expand the crop from the current 7000ha grown in Brazil, including into other cane farming heartlands such as USA, Mexico and Thailand.
Australian trials start in a few years.
GranBio has retained the industrial processing technology to build processing plants which will accompany the crop's expansion.
"Brazil already shows us what's possible," Mr Hunt said.
"Brazilian ethanol production from cane already emits 90pc less CO2 than fossil fuels, and its existing cane plant bioelectric capacity can generate enough power to provide the equivalent of at least half Australia's electricity needs."
One to two hectares of Nufarm canola produces as much omega-3 oil as 10,000 kilograms of wild caught fish- Greg Hunt, Nufarm
Equally promising was Nuseed's CSIRO-developed omega-3 canola oil, rich in beneficial fatty acids, and the first plant-based solution to a global omega-3 nutrient deficiency problem.
It could double the world's supply of omega-3 oil, an important ingredient in human health, stockfeeds and aquaculture.
"One to two hectares of Nufarm canola produces as much omega-3 oil as 10,000 kilograms of wild caught fish," Mr Hunt said.
"By 2030, based on current demand growth and fishing quota constraints, the world will have a million tonne omega-3 oil deficit, therefore that market represents an $850m EBITDA opportunity for Nufarm."
Currently grown on contract, primarily in the US Dakota states and Montana, to make Nufarm's Aquaterra fish food ingredient, the new canola's Australian trials would likely expand to commercial crops by 2024.
Nufarm is also poised to launch Nutriterra, an omega-3 oil for human dietary supplements, as an alternative to fish oil products "but without the fishy burp".
"With our first mover advantage, Nufarm aims to be the leading global supplier of plant-based omega-3 nutrition," Mr Hunt said.
By 2025-26 Nuseed technologies could contribute up to $700m to Nufarm's total revenue goal of about $4.5b (up from $3.2b in 2020-21), and $1.5b by 2029-30, with EBITDA margins nearing 30pc.
Nuseed was already Australia's leading canola seed supplier and fourth globally, also fourth and third globally with its specialist sunflower and sorghum seed categories.
"We can see the seed business tripling in five years," he said.
"In 10 years these technologies have potential to be as big as our crop protection business.
"Nuseed is showing how seed-enabled value chains can create new markets for us and address significant global challenges."
Meanwhile, Nufarm technology spending has also seen this year's release of new non-selective spike herbicide, Terrad'or, in partnership with South Korea's Farm Hannong, and new locally developed, low volatility, high efficacy 2,4-D variant, Dropzone.
In another collaboration with British researchers, Nufarm is working on a technology that delivers a chemical molecule in a form which reduces the dose required to treat crops, with minimal impact on efficacy.
The company also bought into German ag-tech firm crop.zone to develop its Nucrop hybrid electric crop protection which involves treating weeds or desiccating crops with a conductive liquid spray and zapping them with an electric charge in the same pass.
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