Investments in biologicals continue to grow and bring value to farmers across the nation
DPH Biologicals, formerly Douglas Plant Health, is expanding its biologicals product platform to deliver value to customers by sustainably increasing productivity, yield, and profitability.
SP-1 technology is the basis for an expanded biofertility platform, TerraTrove, which will include a stable of biological solutions designed to improve soil fertility and maximize nutrient uptake. Refined across millions of acres, its unique combination of microbes, plant extracts, and algae has consistently rejuvenated the rhizosphere and transformed soil structure for optimal fertilizer and micronutrient solubilization. This distinct formulation manufactures nutrition for the plant within the soil, ensuring an ideal environment for plant growth and on-farm profitability.
“Growmark started working with SP-1 a few years ago in the Northeast. The ability of this product to consistently improve soil’s physical characteristics has been phenomenal, resulting in increased profitability for our customers. We plan to expand use of this biofertilizer across all of our sales territories in the next growing season,” says Eric Mowen, manager of crop protection for Growmark.
When used with in-furrow starter fertilizers, growers can replace up to 50% of synthetic fertilizer. Unlike many other biologicals, SP-1’s easy-to-use liquid formulation seamlessly integrates into broad-acre application practices, including broadcast, in-furrow, drip, and fertigation.
“As we look to the future, we are excited to build upon the proven track record of this innovation. We value the trust our customers put in us to deliver quality products that consistently improve overall soil and plant health,” says Mick Messman, president and CEO. “As supply chain challenges escalate and fertilizer shortages loom, uncertainty remains as to how growers will fertilize their crops. In addition to our name change, today we are also announcing plans to scale production of our flagship biofertilizer to help meet the immediate market demand for expanded fertility options and ensure growers access to a leading biological product to sustainably manage yield and margin per acre.”
Messman, who joined the company in April, provides insights into the new name and expanded services to farmers.
SF: Tell us about your background and the vision you have for the DPH Biologicals.
MM: I grew up on a row crop farm in Nebraska and had the opportunity to spend about 25 years with two multinationals. During that time, I found myself continuing to be attracted to new technology and building new businesses.
Based on societal and consumer demand for different products to be used on their food, there’s been a shift toward biologicals over the past few years. I’ve looked at that as an opportunity for companies to really focus on biologicals in a way that keeps the farmer in mind with products that work consistently.
That really leads to why I joined Douglas Plant Health, now DPH Biologicals – it’s because of the portfolio. We have a portfolio that comes from two companies we purchased in 2018 with products that had been used, in some cases, since the late ’90s by the same farmers over and over. That gives me a high level of enthusiasm and confidence on the platform of a very strong technology, named SP-1 Classic. It’s worked well for many farmers and we’re excited about expanding its usage both from a geographic perspective as well as a crop perspective.
SF: Tell us a little more about why there is a growing interest in biologicals now.
MM: First, consumer pressure, societal demand, and regulatory impacts have been driving this overarching shift, if you will, to biological solutions. At the same time, we know farmers are operating on super thin margins, so they need products that work. And I think what’s different now is that there has been a tremendous amount of investment put into biologicals, so there is better technology coming that works more consistently.
Secondly, as it relates to this year, due to the supply chain challenges and fertilizer shortages, we’re seeing a lot of farmers who are willing to try something new. In the past, maybe they weren’t as interested because they’d always done things the same way, but that shortage has really accelerated the change curve and their willingness to look at new technologies.
SF: How do you communicate the benefits to farmers?
MM: The land is the farmer’s most valuable asset and, in many cases, has been in a family for generations. Farmers are sustainable and they’re looking for sustainable solutions to preserve that land and sometimes, restore or rejuvenate it.
And so, first, we talk about soil health as the overarching umbrella – the ability for the plant to extract the nutrients that are in the soil. But those nutrients may be tied up and the plant roots may not be able to reach them due to things like compaction. The TerraTrove platform with SP-1 Classic can help make those nutrients more available through improvement in soil structure.
Farmers are looking for those solutions that do, in my view, start in the soil. There is a tremendous attachment to the land and we’re excited as DPH Biologicals to bring a product forward that helps not only the soil structure, but ultimately, the plant’s ability to either take up water more efficiently or nutrients and in some cases, both. Then the plant can handle stress more effectively, be more efficient, and yield higher.
SF: What does the expansion of products to farmers mean to the company?
MM: A key reason why some biologicals haven’t necessarily grown as rapidly as they could have in the past is around consistent performance. Many biologicals can perform, but not necessarily as consistently as some of the alternatives. SP-1 Classic does, and we’ve been very excited about the performance with the growers we’ve been serving in a relatively small segment in the eastern Corn Belt.
As our tech and commercial leaders looked at the technology, we decided more farmers deserve the opportunity to use it. We’re investing, expanding, and innovating around SP-1 Classic and the TerraTrove platform. Our investment this past spring was in trials in the western Corn Belt so that we can confidently come forward to retail partners and farmers with a data package there and in the Pacific Northwest. We’re expanding into wheat and potatoes in the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest, and specialty crops in the Southeast.
After growing up on his family farm in Nebraska, Messman earned a bachelor of science in agribusiness degree from University of Nebraska and an MBA from Colorado State University. In April 2021, Messman was named president and chief executive officer of DPH Biologicals, bringing 25 years of experience in crop protection, seed treatment, and biologicals after serving in commercial leadership roles at two leading multinationals and emerging agtech companies.
Today, Messman leads DPH Biologicals to deliver more value to partners and growers through collaborative relationships and access to its trusted biological platform. He has held increasingly senior marketing and commercial leadership roles in agricultural companies over his career. Recently, Messman served as chief commercial officer at Greenlight Bioscience, where he built an agricultural team and worked with partners to prepare for the launch of innovative biocontrol solutions.
Previously, Mick built and led DuPont’s seed applied technology and biologicals business, where he led the efforts to create a new portfolio built through internal discovery and collaborations. Mick joined DuPont Pioneer in 2009, holding several commercial roles across the seeds and crop protection businesses, with an emphasis on emerging technologies and building new portfolios and businesses. Prior to DuPont, Mick held global and U.S. commercial roles at Syngenta, where he worked in early-stage businesses and market development.