Front Range sprouting another agri-tech firm
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.