Front Range sprout­ing an­other agri-tech firm

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Erin Dou­glas

With an­other in­ter­na­tional agri-tech com­pany on its way to metro Den­ver, the Front Range ap­pears to be fast-ap­proach­ing a global rep­u­ta­tion as a nextgen­er­a­tion agri­cul­tural hub.

Inocu­cor, a Cana­dian com­pany that spe­cial­izes in nat­u­ral bi­o­log­i­cal prod­ucts for agri­cul­ture, this win­ter will es­tab­lish its U.S. head­quar­ters just off In­ter­state 25 near Cen­ten­nial Air­port.

Pres­i­dent and CEO Don Marvin, a Den­ver-area res­i­dent, de­scribes Inocu­cor’s prod­ucts as a sort of pro­bi­otic for plants — they en­hance plant health and yields, and mainly tar­get pro­duce such as straw­ber­ries, corn and toma­toes. While the prod­ucts do not re­place the use of pes­ti­cides and syn­thetic chem­i­cals, Marvin said Inocu­cor prod­ucts can re­duce their use.

Inocu­cor re­ceived a $1.3 mil­lion per­for­mance-based job growth tax credit from the state’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sion, but Marvin said the credit was not a de­cid­ing fac­tor for pick­ing Den­ver as the U.S. en­try point. Other states of­fered sim­i­lar cred­its but Colorado had strate­gic ad­van­tages, in­clud­ing a highly ed­u­cated ag work­force. Marvin ex­pects to hire 60 em­ploy­ees.

“I think Den­ver won out be­cause we had pre-ex­ist­ing rela-

tion­ships with other agri­cul­tural busi­nesses here,” he said, also cit­ing the cen­tral lo­ca­tion rel­a­tive to the rest of the na­tion. “And, Colorado State Uni­ver­sity is a ma­jor agri­cul­tural school, so that was im­por­tant to us as well for the ex­cel­lent sourc­ing. We’ll be rapidly re­cruit­ing as we step up our op­er­a­tions.”

CSU has a long his­tory as an agri­cul­tural school and is ma­jor force in the state’s ag econ­omy — old and new, most re­cently be­com­ing a key part­ner in the $1.1 bil­lion over­haul of the Na­tional Western Cen­ter in Den­ver.

Con­di­tions are prime to grow a mod­ern agri­cul­tural econ­omy in Colorado, ac­cord­ing to one CSU pro­fes­sor who re­searches the field.

“We’re not as big as Cal­i­for­nia or Texas, but dol­lar-for-dol­lar GDP we have more agri­cul­ture re­search go­ing on here as a share of the econ­omy,” said Gre­gory Graff, a CSU pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of agri­cul­tural and re­source eco­nom­ics. “What we’re see­ing is that es­pe­cially in the high-tech side of agri­cul­ture, com­pa­nies are tend­ing to clus­ter into sim­i­lar lo­ca­tions to ben­e­fit from the syn­er­gies of work­force.”

Graff said he has seen ma­jor com­pa­nies lo­cate head­quar­ters or large fa­cil­i­ties along the Front Range — such as Lima­grain, in Fort Collins; Syn­genta in north­ern Colorado and Boul­der; and Agrium in Love­land.

“I re­ally think we’re one of the metro re­gions in the run­ning for be­ing a hub of in­no­va­tion in this in­dus­try, glob­ally,” Graff said of the fu­ture of Colorado’s agri­cul­ture in the next 20 years.

He said com­pa­nies like to lo­cate where it’s easy to at­tract the tal­ent they need — no easy task, con­sid­er­ing the types of em­ploy­ees that com­pa­nies such as Inocu­cor want need at least a bach­e­lor’s de­gree if not a mas­ter’s or Ph.D. in plant science or mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy.

Inocu­cor’s 30,000square-foot fa­cil­ity at 7304 S. Joliet St. will mainly be used as the com­pany’s com­mer­cial of­fice and a fer­men­ta­tion fa­cil­ity, while the Mon­treal head­quar­ters will be more fo­cused on in­no­va­tion and de­vel­op­ment.

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