Compass Minerals for many years has steadily expanded its market presence in the agricultural marketplace. In fact, over the course of a few years in the mid-2010s, the company added the Wolf Trax and Produquimica products to its lineup.
Compass Minerals, however, wanted to do more. So, in 2017 the company began to expand its ability to conduct research and development. They opened the North American Innovation Center in Stilwell, KS, in March 2017 and the South American Innovation Center in Iracemopolis, SP, BRZ in June 2017. In October 2016, they completed the purchase of Produquímica, one of Brazil’s leading manufacturers and distributors of specialty plant nutrients.
“Our goal is to directly influence farmer growing practices through science,” says Dr. Ryan Bartlett, Vice President, Innovation and Product Development, Plant Nutrition, for Compass Minerals. “In the world of agriculture R&D, the lion’s share of funding has consistently gone toward advanced breeding techniques, developing transgenics, and crop protection products. We’re working to compound the gains realized with those innovations through untapped advancements in plant nutrition or new technology in plant nutrition.”
At present, Compass Minerals offers a broad portfolio of specialty plant nutrition products to customers. This includes a line of micronutrients that coat onto dry fertilizer, Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients, Protassium+ sulfate of potash, and ProAcqua water-soluble fertilizers for foliar and fertigation applications.
As for new products from the Stilwell facility itself, Bartlett points to the company’s recently introduced Rocket Seeds line. “Compass Minerals got this facility fully operational back in June 2017,” he says. “And Rocket Seeds is the first new product family to come out of this location.”
According to Bartlett, Rocket Seeds helps customers provide proper nutrition to seeds, enabling them to “better withstand early-season cold and water stress while progressing through the vegetative stage.” Products in the line-up include Rocket Seeds PMZ Dry, a dry seed nutritional that improves early root growth and plant vigor; Rocket Seeds PMZ Liquid, a liquid seed nutritional that improves early root growth and resistance to stress; Rocket Seeds Moly Dry, a dry seed nutritional for soybeans/legumes that promotes early growth; and Rocket Seeds Moly Liquid, a liquid seed nutritional that improves nitrogen efficiency in soybeans and other nitrogen-fixing crops.
Compass Minerals’ North American Innovation Center in Stilwell encompasses 14,000 square feet. It features 3,400 square feet of greenhouses, a growth chamber, and 16 acres of field trials. On site a diverse group of chemists, agronomists, soil scientists, engineers, geologists, and plant physiologists make up the research team that is focused on proprietary product development and application processes. According to Bartlett, “plants in agriculture always need nutrients, year in and year out.” The staff at the Compass Minerals Stilwell facility is focused on refreshing the industry’s most complete plant nutrition portfolio while developing new offerings for today’s grower.
“We hold a strategic advantage when it comes to developing plant nutrition systems,” he says. “We have the ability to go from ideation to formulation to field testing all in the same facility in a very short time. The ability to utilize our South American Innovation Center also provides tremendous advantage for counter-season field testing. We’re also able to show retailers and growers our process, so they have confidence in the quality of our product and operations. It is gratifying to see the work in the lab translate to performance in the field.”
In addition to relying on input from its agronomists, sales teams, and customers, Compass Minerals is also partnering with several leading universities to gather insights into possible new product concepts. “With farmers utilizing better genetics, traits, and crop protectants, we are well-positioned to develop specialized nutrient solutions that help farmers to realize the investment that comes in a seed or jug,” Bartlett says. “We believe that our future is to develop next-generation, efficient, and sustainable crop nutrition products – that delivers on a new level of technology and ensures a consistent return on investment for our farmer customers. And we’re well on our way.”