Making it Work: Award-winning biotech firm powers crop growth using seaweed

Brandon Bioscience has developed a new solution for reducing nitrogen use in agriculture without affecting crop yield

10th October, 2021
Making it Work: Award-winning biotech firm powers crop growth using seaweed
Oliver Kiernan, the chief executive Brandon Bioscience, pictured with Paddy Casey of Target Fertilisers. The companies have teamed up to launch a new new Terra range of biostimulants. Picture: Hany Marzouk

With its pummelling waves and howling winds, Ireland’s west coast is not the first place that springs to mind when you think of crop growth and the technology that underpins it.

But for Brandon Bioscience, the Kerry-based biotechnology company, the Wild Atlantic Way is the petri dish from which its award-winning crop biostimulants are sourced.

Using the simplest of ingredients – the common brown seaweed that has grown in the Atlantic for thousands of years – the firm has built a business that sells fertiliser technology to thousands of growers in countries around the world.

Now Brandon Bioscience, which has just been named the winner of Enterprise Ireland’s innovation arena awards, has developed a new way of reducing nitrogen use without any corresponding fall-off in efficiencies.

Headquartered in Ballybunion and backed by Enterprise Ireland, the company claims its latest technology can allow growers to cut their nitrogen rates by 25 per cent without their crop yield suffering.

Amid a Europe-wide attempt to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilisers in agriculture, Brandon believes its plant signal induction technology, known as PSI, can play a major part in a new era of crop-growing around the world.

Using PSI technology, Brandon transforms seaweed extracts into modern solutions which are used by farmers in more than 40 countries. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry, and the firm is an important player in the sector.

“The magnitude of the nitrogen reduction achieved with PSI without compromising yield suggests it can have a significant role in delivering the EU target of a 20 per cent reduction in nitrogen use in agriculture,” Oliver Kiernan, Brandon’s chief executive, told the Business Post.

The latest PSI solution developed by the company offers a “spray-on trait” that targets particular pathways in the metabolism of a plant relating to its uptake and transport of nitrogen, he said. These allow it to better take up the nitrogen that is administered, meaning less fertiliser and more sustainable farming practices.

The pandemic proved tricky for Brandon because of the large sales reduction that affected the food service industry worldwide, according to Kiernan, who took up his role in May.

But despite the challenging circumstances, the company successfully launched its new Terra range in conjunction with Target Fertilisers, a Kilkenny-based company which specialises in wholesaling fertiliser products.

With factories in Ireland and Scotland, Brandon is now the largest seaweed processor in Britain and Ireland, employing more than 50 people across the two sites.

“We strive to improve the health and wellbeing of a growing population in a more natural, ethical and sustainable way,” Kiernan said of the company’s aspirations.

“Our vision for the future is a world where biostimulants are mainstream crop inputs delivering increased crop quality and productivity to feed a growing world demand in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.”

Related Stories

Making it Work: Fast-growing WrxFlo plans global expansion

Making it Work: New platform aims to ‘fill huge void’ in female healthcare

Making it Work: Beauty roadshow looks to change mindset on cosmetic surgery

Making it Work: Nostra targets €100m revenue in five years