News & Insights

Seventh Generation American Farmer Brings New Tools

by Matt Helms

Today, on this special day for all Americans, we celebrate with family and friends at backyard barbeques.  This classic American tradition touches me and my family personally.

Growing up on a seven-generation Illinois family farm, I experienced the dynamics of agriculture at the farm level, including margin pressure, finding qualified and motivated labor, and growing crops with increasing challenges in the field. In soybeans, for example, the cost of weed control has increased by approximately $20 to $25 per acre over the past 10 years. Today, we also are working in a society that has increased communications to address changing societal questions about how food is grown.

Over my 18 years working in Big Ag, I have seen the challenges from that perspective as well – like discovering new products, and then bringing them to market in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It is becoming increasingly difficult to discover new products, not to mention navigating the ever-changing global regulatory environment, including labeling guidelines and how products can be used in the market. The bottom line: it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to get these products to market to solve the same problems that farmers have been facing for years.

Like many consumers, I care about how food is produced and arrives to my kitchen. As Vice President of Commercial at NewLeaf Symbiotics, the “how” matters. Today on this day when we hardily enjoy food as part of our celebration activities, it’s a great opportunity for me to talk about why I decided to join NewLeaf:

  1. A top-notch leading global management team. Our CEO and CFO have the entrepreneurial and equity experience to move NewLeaf forward in this industry. My management team peers have deep and broad experience and talent in the field of microbials – from R&D, to Product Development, to Business Development, to Communications and Sustainability.
  2. The focus on one genus of microbe – methylobacterium or M-trophs. NewLeaf is an inch wide and a mile deep with this very unique genus of microbe, providing a high “hit rate” of leading strains with potential to become commercial products. M-trophs grow from plant methanol, a plant by-product. That’s why M-trophs do not “drain” the plant of other energy sources, like most other microbes that live on or in the plant or crop. This means that more of the plant’s energy goes to help with seed emergence, stress tolerance and grain/fruit development. M-trophs also colonize very well across the entire plant, so an application as a seed treatment in-furrow or even as a foliar treatment will result in microbe growth across the plant throughout the season.
  3. Products and performance I had not seen before. Our Business Development and Agronomy Lead tested our product across multiple years, environments and conditions to arrive at the data – and it is impressive. Terrasym® products for soybean provide a step change. What caught my attention even more were the leading strains in the pipeline that are controlling key pests, such as corn rootworm, and diseases as well – and these products are not far from getting to market.
  4. Speed to market with sustainable solutions. The ability to discover, develop and bring these M-trophs to the market in a fraction of the time and cost that it takes to get a new synthetic chemistry or a GMO trait to the market is exactly what Big Ag and farmers are looking for and what consumers are demanding.
  5. Driving impact. I am passionate about my role on an entrepreneurial team that is empowered to grow, develop and run a business in which our singular focus drives us every day to find more ways to deliver sustainable yield and improved crop quality.

Thank you to all American Farmers for your tireless efforts bringing to our kitchen table something that unites all of us.


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