Education and research at the heart of Neutrog upgrade

South Australian biological fertiliser company Neutrog will build a new multi-functional facility at its Kanmantoo headquarters focusing on education and R&D.

Apr 22, 2024, updated Apr 22, 2024
Neutrog's $3.5 million multi-function facility will include an 80-seat education centre. Photo: Supplied.

Neutrog's $3.5 million multi-function facility will include an 80-seat education centre. Photo: Supplied.

A $3.5 million spend will expand fertiliser company Neutrog’s on-site laboratory capacity four-fold and extend its ability to educate the public about ongoing research, according to managing director Angus Irwin.

“We have outgrown our existing laboratory and with the increasing demand we are experiencing from our customers and partners we need to position for the future,” Irwin said.

Founded in 1988, Neutrog has grown steadily to become a major player in the biological fertiliser space, helped by quirky naming conventions for its fertiliser products like Nincompoop, SeaDoo, and Meatworks.

The unlisted public company is on track to hit $22 million in annual revenue this financial year – up from $19 million – and exports have risen 20 per cent to now represent $1.2 million in annual sales.

Neutrog said its new 80-seat centre will help educate the industry and the broader community on its developments in microbes and biologicals, and their value to agriculture and horticulture.

Speaking to InDaily, Irwin said the public knew “very little… about biologicals” and that the facility will assist in its mission to grow awareness about its research.

“We’d have probably 1000 to 1500 visitors a year through our site, and we already get students from various places up here,” he said.

“It’s really about coming and having a look and seeing what we do. It’s very difficult for people to imagine the extent of what we do up here.”

Irwin added that it was important for people to learn more about what Neutrog does, especially as he believes the company will play an important part in increasing food production.

“It is widely recognised that over the next 20 years, food production needs to increase by 70 to 100 per cent from diminishing areas of arable land just to feed the world’s growing population,” he said.

“Biologicals are increasingly seen as playing a significant role in achieving this goal.”

A render of the proposed upgrade of Neutrog’s R&D facilities. Photo: Supplied.

Irwin said the company’s R&D facility upgrades would give Neutrog “significantly increased scope for standalone and partnership R&D projects and to expand its own R&D workforce”.

“I’m both fascinated and obsessed with the R&D we’re doing,” Irwin said.

The centre will include a BC2-accredited (biosecurity containment level 2 approved) laboratory, and Neutrog will be the only commercial fertiliser business in Australia to have this accreditation once received.

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The accreditation will allow Neutrog to bring soils in from overseas – “important if we’re wanting to be developing products to go around the world” – and will permit the company to do research into animal and human pathogens.

“For example, with the likes of salmonella, it’s highly likely that the manure we get in here contains salmonella because it literally comes from chickens.

“Another good example is if you have legionella – which can sometimes happen in potting mix – if you’re able to inoculate that with inhibitors that stop legionella then you’ve fixed another problem.

“[The accreditation] allows us to have a far greater scope for the research we’re doing.”

Neutrog senior research assistant Juhee Hada and managing director Angus Irwin. Photo: Supplied.

The news follows a growth spurt for the company which has nearly doubled its staff headcount over the last five years.

Irwin said the company’s focus on biologicals brought about that growth, as well as a desire to “do things differently”.

“We have brought out a number of innovative products which have been very successful,” Irwin said.

“One of the most successful ones was a product ‘Who Flung Dung’ which is a by-product of chicken growing bedding material.

“If there was one thing driving the growth it would be innovation: what we do is we do things differently and we do it at a very high premium level.”

Senior research assistant Juhee Hada said the new facilities would allow Neutrog to continue helping farmers.

“What we do at Neutrog is not for research’s sake,” she said.

“We work closely alongside farmers and growers so we get to see the real life impact of our R&D.

“I’m excited by the difference our team is making in agriculture and horticulture and what that means for the future of food production.”

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