Jun. 18, 2020
Dan Grotsky is Co-Founder and VP Sales & Marketing at Groundwork BioAg, a bioagriculture venture that produces cost-effective mycorrhizal inoculants and sells them in major agricultural markets worldwide. In the following interview, Dan shares his views on the mycorrhizal inoculant market, and talks about Rootella product line developed by Groundwork BioAg.
1. Can you please tell us the background of Groundwork BioAg’s establishment and development?
In 2008, I had a revelation that changed my entire career. I recalled a promise I made to myself when I was ten years old, whereby I would leave this Earth in better condition than the way it was when I got here. And though my career was rewarding at the time, I realized that I was not living up to that promise. I decided to go into regenerative agriculture, specifically bioagriculture. I teamed up with Dr. Yossi Kofman, a successful serial entrepreneur, and Danny Levy, who was responsible for mycorrhizal production at Israel's Volcani Center Agricultural Research Organization. Together, we cofounded Groundwork BioAg, with a mission to cover the world's arable land with mycorrhizae. To that end, we licensed the initial technology from the Volcani Center, and developed the world's most cost-effective production system for mycorrhizal inoculants. Today, we deliver highly-effective inoculants to customers around the world, including the USA, Brazil, India, Ukraine, Canada, and Europe.
2. What are the benefits or advantages of your OMRI-listed Rootella product line? How do they work?
Mycorrhiza is a symbiotic relationship between 90% of all plant species and fungi. The microscopic fungi latch onto plant roots and effectively extend them in an underground web. They physically access nutrients that are out of the root’s reach, and chemically break down unavailable, bound nutrients, especially phosphorus. Plants have benefited from mycorrhiza over the last 400 million years – but modern cultivation techniques deplete the natural mycorrhiza in your soil. Mycorrhizal inoculation by application of Rootella products restores the soil’s mycorrhizal balance and significantly improves plant nutrient uptake. This provides a wide scope of benefits to farmers:
· Crop yield increase
· Fertilizer savings (especially phosphorus)
· Resilience to stress (e.g. drought, salinity, acidity)
· Eco-friendly and suitable for use in organic farming
3. With the growing trend in sustainable agriculture, how do you see the market potential of mycorrhizal inoculants?
As I mentioned, Groundwork BioAg was founded as a regenerative agriculture company at heart. Regenerative and sustainable agriculture are gaining traction in a world where farmers, regulators and consumers are realizing the toll their practices are exacting on the environment. This trend helps our business to some extent, as some growers look specifically for regenerative inputs. However the mainstream still isn't there - not even close. In order to accomplish our mission, our value proposition needs to attract all growers, not just those who really strive to be regenerative. Indeed, our products improve yields and reduce stress across all cultivation methods - conventional or organic. Essentially, we sell inoculants to mainstream growers, who value our products because they improve yields and mitigate stress. At the end of the day, they are getting regenerative agriculture, whether they know it or not, and whether they care or not. Farmers win, the planet wins, we all win.
4. What obstacles did Groundwork BioAg experience when trying to bring the products to a new market? How did you tackle them?
Row crops are a relatively virgin market for mycorrhizal inoculants, as mycorrhiza vendors have thus far been focused on high-value crops, where grower price points are higher. Entering the market with the most cost-effective inoculants in the world, we have set our sights on this huge opportunity, which entails a huge challenge. Row crop growers are not accustomed to purchasing mycorrhizal inoculants, and convincing them to do so is a matter of several seasons of on-site proof. The three parameters that are of most interest to most growers are yield, yield, and... yield. Thus sales cycles can be measured in years, as farmers run trials and pilots to assess the benefits on their farms. Groundwork BioAg is taking on this challenge, territory by territory, crop by crop, and farm by farm.
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