An idea which took seed in a Massey University Lab in 2012, has grown to become one of the most exciting commercial ventures to come out of the Manawatū-Whanganui region in recent times.
BioLumic, founded by Dr Jason Morgent, now has research centres in Palmerston North and the United States, along with field trials in numerous locations across the world. It is building a strong international reputation with investors committing from far and wide. In fact, just last month, BioLumic announced an investment by Canadian company Canopy Rivers of $2.2 million.
So what do BioLumic do? The company develop UV light treatments for seeds and plants to improve their performance and yield. The plants increase their resistance to disease, and grow bigger and hardier with stronger roots. Initially BioLumic focused on lettuce plants, they now provide treatments for tomatoes, strawberries and in the future medicinal cannabis. It is a unique biotechnology taking the world by storm.
Dean Tilyard of The Factory has been involved with BioLumic since its inception, sourcing investors initially and now as a board director.
“Trying to attract global markets while being based in regional New Zealand can be a real challenge, however BioLumic’s success to date is a testament to what is a unique yet proven product along with their talented, hardworking team,” says Dean.
“Canopy Rivers have made their significant investment so BioLumic can look at treatments for medicinal cannabis crops. Medicinal cannabis is a rapidly growing area globally, so this is a truly exciting development.”
BioLumic is in a unique situation in that they are able to operate globally, yet still have a presence in the Manawatū. The distance from markets is substantial and it can be hard to secure capital, which is why international investments are so important. Talent attraction can be difficult too, especially since that talent is in demand globally.
However as Dean points out, being based near Massey University can have significant benefits.
“BioLumic are located at the heart of biotech research and development in our country and that’s important,” he says.
“Plus they can access equipment, facilities and expertise as and when they need them. New Zealand has a good reputation for producing technology, so there is a lot of credibility there,”
"What’s more potential employees are attracted to the Manawatū lifestyle of short commutes, affordable housing and the great outdoors just on the doorstep."
As for the future, BioLuimic and Dean believes there are a lot of opportunities in front of the company. The technology is unique and growers are beginning to realise how valuable it is to them.