‘A huge diversification for the company’
Ag-tech firm XiteBio’s latest product ‘a major new initiative’
Notwithstanding the dearth of skilled labour, just about every time there is a deep-dive analysis about what it would take to boost the Manitoba economy the matter of innovation or investment in technology consistently gets raised.
But that’s never been lacking at XiteBio Technologies in south Winnipeg.
The 16-person ag-tech company has its own innovation research and development facility and keeps creating new agri-science products to aid in sustainable increased yields and value for producers.
Manas Banerjee, the CEO and owner of XiteBio Technologies Inc, in his lab with peas and soybeans. One of his new fertilizer enhancer products, XiteBio Vegi+, has just been approved by regulators for application on vegetable seeds.
The company has developed patented technologies producing seed inoculants using naturally occurring bacteria that not only mean farmers don’t have to use more fertilizer, but crops are consistent and uniform and the product is easy to use.
Last month, XiteBio’s latest product, Vegi+, received registration from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
As the name suggests, the product can be used on vegetables — cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, cauliflowers and navy beans — in either indoor greenhouse environments or outdoors.
Manas Banerjee, the CEO and owner of XiteBio, said it is a major new initiative for the company.
“It is a huge diversification for the company,” he said. “It opens up a whole new export market potential for us.”
The company already has product specially designed for soybean, pulses, oilseeds, cereals and potatoes with potatoes only being registered last year.
Banerjee says that over the company’s 13 years in business it has developed an enviable track record of customer retention of about 90 per cent.
Jake Ayre, who runs Southern Seed near Minto with his father Andrew, has been selling XiteBio products for more than 10 years.
“Everyone who uses it, loves it,” he said.
The Ayres also use it on their own fields where they produce pedigree soy seed.
“We use it on every soy bean acre and we definitely believe we are getting a return on our investment,” he said.
Banerjee keeps sales figures close to the vest but figures that volumes have been increasing more than 25 per cent per year, with more than 30 million acres of production — from Quebec to British Columbia and throughout the Great Plains states in the U.S. — using at least one XiteBio product.
But even with solid demand for its row crop inputs the company often runs into the unfortunate situation of actually running out of certain products.
That’s because they are made using a fermentation process and bacteria as the active agent giving the product a limited shelf life of between one and two years depending on the product.
The products are all organically certified.
“We are not genetically modifying anything,” said Banerjee. “We see what Mother Nature is doing and we just enhance that.”
Banerjee said that breaking into the vegetable market is a big deal for the company.
Not only does it mean the potential for new geographic markets like California, Georgia and Florida, but it also means addressing a much higher value crop.
Banerjee contends that Vegi+, which uses Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) technology, could revolutionize the way vegetables are produced with each plant generating vegetables of uniform size and shape and colour in greater quantity, something that is vital to produce marketable produce.
“Over three years of research we have found that marketable vegetable quality/grade and quantity have been increased substantially” Banerjee said.
The company deploys a strategic distribution model where its in-house sales team and agronomists determine the retailers that will do the best job and then, according to Banerjee, “support them like hell.”
Source: Martin Cash, Winnipeg Free Press