The crisis in the price and availability of agricultural fertilizers is having a major impact on global agriculture, and has even raised fears of food insecurity. The war conflict in Ukraine initiated by Russia (the largest global exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second largest of potassium and the third largest of phosphate fertilizers, according to FAO data) is currently a determining factor, although it should be recalled that the price escalation started more than a year ago with the rise in the price of gas, which has caused, for example, the price of urea to increase two and a half times in the last 12 months.
This big gap in the supply of an essential resource for agriculture puts into question the convenience of depending on a concentrated market, and raises the need to find effective, local and, above all, available raw materials, something that is particularly relevant at this time in regions such as Latin America ahead of the coming agricultural campaigns; and algae meet all the requirements to emerge as interesting alternatives to mineral fertilizers.
"Our purpose at Patagonia Biotechnology is to put the power of seaweed from the Patagonian Ocean, which we enhance through biotechnology, at the service of sustainable global agriculture. Our Fertum solution has been developed by Marcelo Brintrup Meeder, who has worked for more than 30 years with algae, continuing the research work carried out by a true visionary, Dr. Gotardo Schenckel Stiefel of the University of Concepción, Chile," explains Rebeca Gálvez.
"No resource is infinite, but the potential of algae practically is, always depending on how it is managed. Besides, it is a raw material that can help tackle every problem afflicting us today when it comes to climate change, because they have tremendous carbon-fixing power," says Rebeca. "At Patagonia Biotecnología we have our own maritime concessions where we work with our own crops and through alliances with professional fishermen, whom we train so that the algae are harvested in a sustainable manner and do not damage the ecosystem. We work specifically with Macrocystis brown algae."
"These algae are more abundant than others used by competitors and their weight can grow 3,500 times in less than 90 days. Our products stand out because they are manufactured with fresh algae with a process patented in Chile, the United States and Canada, and we have a range of 15 products certified for organic agriculture. It is important to note that we are an Endeavor company ready to scale up. We are currently selling one million liters, but we have the infrastructure for this figure to increase to 20 million liters per year."
Patagonian marine nutrients: higher production and less losses
The algae that form the basis of Patagonia Biotecnología's fertilizer solutions are harvested in the coastal region that goes from Valdivia to the island of Chiloé, where they are fed by the nutritious Humboldt Current.
"The patented process allows us to release the macro and micronutrients from the algae, as well as the precursors of phytohormones, to make them available to the plants. We offer producers a dual technology, since our products have precursors of both auxins and cytokinins. These components strengthen the crops and allow them to better withstand water and heat stress, and promote root growth, so that plants have a greater capacity to capture the nutrients present in the soil."
"Our products also contain silicon, an element that Marcelo Brintrup has been working with for more than 15 years, and which is considered a fourth generation fertilizer. Different trials have shown that the use of our solutions has led to increases of 15% in the potato production, or of up to 100% in that of blueberries with our strengthening and vigor program; even in California, where the Fusarium pest is causing losses of 60% in the celery production, Fertum enriched with silicon managed to reduce losses by 15% without a fungicide, only with the strengthening it brings to the crop," says Rebeca Gálvez. "Initially, our products were offered as a complement to basal fertilization programs, but the various trials conducted with internationally renowned companies have shown that they are just as effective when used individually and have even managed to increase yields."
Rebeca Gálvez and Macarena Cruzat.
"Also, last week was very important for us, as we were able to close a partnership with Dr. Lorena Barra, developer of a patented microbial consortium with which we are going to boost our R&D."
At the service of fruit growing
"We have managed to position ourselves in Chile from north to south with clients who are leaders in the production of table grapes, walnuts, citrus fruits, avocados, blueberries, cherries and hazelnut trees. In fact, we are the country's leaders in seaweed extracts; also in Peru, where we have gained a foothold in blueberries and table grapes and are beginning to conduct trials in bananas and sugar cane, and in the United States. There we are consolidating our position in California, where we are quickly replacing other well-known algae extracts. Last year we also managed to enter the Ecuadorian market, where the banana sector is one of our targets, and we have just closed our first contract with China."
"Moreover, in these last few months since the beginning of the war, some large companies from countries like Italy and Spain looking for strategic alliances have contacted us," says Rebeca Galvez. "The fertilizer industry is at a turning point. It can offer the environment and the planet a new chance, and it's time to step up."
The team of Patagonia Biotecnología.