A fast-growing American fertiliser manufacturer, Bio Soil Enhancers Inc, is planning to use Auckland as its base for exporting through the Asia-Pacific region including China and India.
Mississippi-based Bio Soil is seeking a site to establish its first overseas blending and bottling facility that will initially produce 24 million litres of its all-natural Sumagrow liquid fertiliser in a year.
"New Zealand is a very important agricultural country and is well positioned with its '100 per cent Pure'," says Bio Soil representative, John Greenberg.
"We can meet that promise, and there is a list of 20 other reasons why we consider Auckland an appropriate place to base our Asia Pacific operations."
Sumagrow fertiliser is a soil amendment of concentrated living microbes found in healthy soils. The formulation is suspended in an organic humic carrier, and makes atmospheric nitrogen and existing soil minerals -- phosphate, magnesium and calcium -- available for uptake by plants.
Mobilising soil nutrients is a vital role of the naturally-occurring microorganisms.
Greenberg says products containing Sumagrow replace or reintroduce vital soil micro-organisms that are lost or damaged by conventional farming methods including the overuse of chemical-based fertilisers and pesticides, and the depletion of organic matter.
After a decade of research, testing and trials, Bio Soil began selling its OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed fertiliser commercially three years ago.
Bringing this (Chinese) land back to productivity represents an almost unbelievable opportunity for the company.
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It says the product increases crop yields by 10 per cent and improves the nutritional value of food and forage crops including higher brix (sugar) levels. Bio Soil also has data about its product reducing nitrate leaching to waterways, and requiring lower applications than NPK fertiliser.
Bio Soil claims its fertiliser has a wide range of applications -- for pasture growth and restoring rice paddies through to growing healthy crops such as corn, cotton, tea, soybean, wheat, sugar cane, vegetables and fruit. The typical application rate, normally by spraying, is one litre of Sumagrow to 20 litres of water.
The company, which sells in 47 US states, is presently doubling the capacity of its production plant in Hattiesburg as export orders roll in. There are ongoing commercial trials in more than 40 countries and Bio Soil is selling or has registered to sell in half of them.
The Mississippi State Government is also providing the company with a financial package -- land, tax holiday and employee training funding -- to build a second plant at Hattiesburg.
This 10,000 sq m processing facility will be replicated, likely in Auckland, which will become a vital cog in Sumagrow's strong Asian export growth. Greenberg expects the first stage (5000 sq m) of the plant to be completed within 12-18 months.
"We will be installing the blending equipment, after we have increased the microbe production at Hattiesburg."
The Sumagrow product will be sent to Auckland as a concentrated syrup that contains active microbes. The syrup will be finished, bottled and distributed.
Late last year Bio Soil's product was approved in New Zealand as a fertiliser by the Ministry for Primary Industries, and Sumagrow has received an import and export permit.
The company is already selling in Vietnam and is working on export orders in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Korea, India and China, with much of the production coming from the new Auckland processing plant.
Sumagrow has received an import licence and is awaiting a final sales permit from the Indian authorities. Bio Soil's chief executive and co-founder Lou Elwell says India is a massive opportunity. "The Indian government subsidises chemical fertilisers including urea and farmers frequently over-use these inputs, which has led to a relative decline in yields and can ultimately lead to the collapse of soil."
Bio Soil began selling in Vietnam during the middle of last year and expects to increase its shipments to at least 100 containers in a year, producing NZ$21 million in revenue.
Says Greenberg: "Our product is being used to treat rice paddies exposed to high salinity water, and there are generally three rice crops grown each year, per hectare."
Elwell says China is the "800- pound gorilla" when it comes to sales forecasts as the opportunities there might exceed all the other Asian- Pacific countries put together.
"Not only does China have a massive amount of land but according to one official Chinese news agency report, up to 40 per cent of the agricultural land has been abandoned as unproductive. Bringing this land back to productivity represents an almost unbelievable opportunity for the company," he says.
Auckland will play an important part in Sumagrow Asia Pacific's supply and distribution network, and Greenberg says the company and product can be very useful to New Zealand.
"There is a nitrate leaching problem. Our product increases the holding capacity of the soil and can reduce leaching by up to 70 per cent. There are also marginal soils in the Far North and too much nitrogen in some of the waterways. Sumagrow should be able to alleviate those problems," he says.
Bio Soil is also eyeing the forestry industry and will hold talks with a group in the central North Island about starting pine trials. Trials in the United States have shown a pine tree, producing more needles, grows 11 feet (3.35 metres) tall in two and a half years with an application of 12-14 ounces of Sumagrow product per one gallon at planting.