Proactive Investors | Andrew Kessel | Article Link | August, 2019

  • Marrone’s products are made from naturally-occurring substances like bacteria or plant extracts
  • Biopesticides used in conjunction with chemical ones gives growers more control over pests
  • The biopesticide industry is projected to more than double to $6.4 billion by 2023

What the company does:
Marrone Bio Innovations Inc (NASDAQ:MBII) is leading the charge toward more environmentally-conscious effective pest management for farmers with its unique line of biological pesticides.

Its products are made from naturally occurring substances such as microbes, Bt bacteria, plant extracts, fatty acids or pheromones, and it is currently the only publicly traded biopesticide company on the US market.

Marrone’s biopesticides, used alone or in concert with traditional chemical pesticides, help customers operate more sustainably while controlling pests, improving plant health, and increasing crop yields.

Founded in 2006, the Davis, California-based company holds more than 400 issued and pending patents and has brought six US Environmental Protection Agency-registered biological product lines and one biostimulant to market.

Its suite of biologicals includes a bevy of bacteria strains and plant extracts that fight pests, control plant diseases and reduces stress from sun and water.

Besides its California operation, Marrone cultivates its biologicals at a facility in Bangor, Michigan armed with three 20,000 liter fermentation tanks.

How it’s doing:
Biologicals are rapidly growing industry, and Marrone hopes to take advantage. According to data from Markets and Markets, the biopesticide market is projected to more than double to $6.4 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of nearly 16%.

For Marrone, the past year has seen a ramp up in cash flow. The company posted sales of $8.7 million in the three months ended March 31, more than double the $4.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

Over the same period, losses shrank to $3.9 million from $5.3 million, or $0.04 per share from $0.07 per share.

Looking ahead, Marrone is developing a weed killer capable of tackling plants that have built up resistance to glyphosate, the chemical compound found in products like RoundUp. The product was submitted to the EPA for approval in August 2018.

Inflection Points:
In July, Marrone launched BioUnite, a pest management program the provides prescriptions to farmers for combinations of biologicals with chemical pesticides. Farmers will often combine the two when spraying their crops or rotate their uses throughout the season.

As part of the BioUnite platform, the company rolled out a spray to fight navel orangeworm, a pest that burrows into California almonds. Chemicals only give farmers about 60% control of the worm, but adding the company’s Venerate insecticide to the mix increases that control to about 90%. That means more money for growers to the tune of a six-to-one return on investment.

In May, Marrone partnered with Compass Minerals Plant Nutrition to bring its biological into a new market: fertilizer. The company has a collection of 18,000 micro-organisms discovered over the years, some of which help plants absorb nutrients like nitrogen and phosphate. Compass Minerals will integrate the micro-organisms into the fertilizer itself with the goal of increasing crop yield.

The deal marks Marrone’s first foray into the plant nutrition market, an industry worth roughly $160 billion globally.

What the boss says:
Founder and CEO Pam Marrone has a PhD in entomology, the study of insects, and has spent her career focused on pest management. She’s optimistic about where the biologicals industry is headed.

“It’s $60 billion global pesticide chemical market that we operate in, and biologicals is the fastest growing crop input segment,” Marrone said. It is expected to get quite large in five years, and we’re growing significantly higher than the industry average as well as the overall market.”