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Celentis launches seed subsidiary

By Bette Flagler

Monday 1st December 2003

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Palmerston North may be a long way from the cotton fields of home, but for John Stewart, CEO of Grasslanz, it's an exciting place to be. Australian-born Stewart, who served as president international of the Delta and Pine Land Company based in Mississippi, US, spent nearly 30 years travelling the world commercialising cotton cultivars, licensing IP and partnering with global seed companies before coming to New Zealand to head the newest wholly-owned subsidiary of Celentis, the commercial arm of AgResearch.

Launched on 14 October at the annual conference of the New Zealand Grassland Association, Grasslanz has evolved from the Cultivar Development and Management Unit (CDMU) and will carry on with the development and commercialisation of plant technologies, including endophytes and plant cultivars of rye grass, white clover and tall fescue. Stewart says that with only eight employees, Grasslanz is a small company that can take products to market faster than, for instance, a big concern like AgResearch. He also sees the new business arrangement - one step further away from government - as a positive move for taking on outside business partners, stating that, "the company can't develop more products on its current revenue. The future biotechnologies are very exciting stuff, and we will be looking to grow the business through expansion in domestic and international markets, technology and business partnerships. Grasslanz has a strong hold in Australasia on the pasture seed business, and has the capacity to deliver that throughout the world. It's very exciting for big companies like Monsanto, who controls 90% of the transgenics, to find a seed company like Grasslanz."

Stewart is excited about the state of biotechnology in New Zealand in general and is looking to drive the company into diversifications that can be applicable across many species. The board of Grasslanz is expected to be named by the end of November. Celentis has nine other subsidiaries, including AgVax Development, Bio Products, Time Capsule, ComOne and Covita.

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