May 15, 2023

WGCIT Resident: Agronova’s Probelte – Providing the Tools for Soil Health to Promote Human Health

With the motto “From soil to health,” Probelte puts its purpose of being a player in the chain of environmental and human health front and center.

Hector Rodriguez, the CEO of Agronova—of which Probelte is the biological solutions subsidiary—has a keen eye on the future of biologicals in U.S. agriculture. In the broad framework of the Probelte catalog of products, there are three main goals for the products: what you feed the plant in its early stage, how you make it more vigorous as it grows, and how to treat it once it’s grown. “Our biological portfolio comprises from the fertilization to the vigor on the growth of the plant all the way to combatting pests through natural organisms, not using chemical products,” Rodriguez said.

By adding bacteria to the soil and supporting a strong microbiome, the plant is better equipped to capture nitrogen, which reduces the amount of nitrogen a grower has to supplement. Supporting the soil in the early growth stages offers a long tail of benefits: “The more robust and vigorous the plant grows, the heartiness of the plant, the less susceptible it is to pests and fungi and insects and pathogens.”

Probelte is existing in the best of both worlds: its new move to the U.S. market is backed by over 50 years of success in Spain. Like many companies in the space, Probelte started with a focus on chemical synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. In a shift that occurred early in the story of biological solutions to these products, Probelte started developing its biological products in the early 1990s. For years, the family-owned company worked on the research and development to support grower organizations in Spain, content to stay within the country’s economy.

By the early 2020s, a private equity fund came into the holdings of the company and a different group of management came to usher in a new era for the company. Rodriguez was one of the members of this new management team. “We decided that the company was a bit of a sleeping dog. [It was working] under the radar. It had a very strong biological portfolio, but it had not been really exposed for what it was worth,” he said.

One opportunity for growth stood out: California. Similar in climate to much of Spain, the chance for California to benefit from the hundreds of field studies conducted in Spain over the years was clear. Probelte has two objectives to reach within the next few years: assist the U.S. agricultural market to benefit from the products it has had years to develop and create a data platform that will allow for predictive modeling to best use products—anyone’s products—efficiently in the field. With better tools, Probelte hopes to make crop care efficient and accurate, reducing overfeeding and overtreating. In other developments, Probelte is set to begin developing its products in the U.S. by 2024.

Rodriguez shared his expectations for the future: “This is a gradual process. This whole thing is going to be gradual. You can’t just go and replace all of your synthetic NPK products overnight.” He said Probelte is looking to grow and adapt to changes in tandem with the U.S. market. He understands that grower operations aren’t going to integrate biological options throughout the growing process all at once. The company’s objective is to meet growers where they are and offer solutions where they make the most sense at a given time. “It’s more of a pulling together with the grower rather than a pushing,” Rodriguez said. With the change in environmental regulations and requirements, the push may come from external sources, but having a biological solutions provider looking for a mutually beneficial outcome may ease the process.

Agronova will be present at the Salinas Biological Summit on June 20-21 to join a discussion panel and have a booth to share how their products offer biological solutions. Agronova will also be a sponsor of the event.