RTI sells research center for undisclosed amount

dranii@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

Research institute RTI International has sold its small, 2-year-old Center for Agricultural and Environmental Biosolutions for an undisclosed sum.

Philadelphia-based chemical giant FMC announced Monday that it has acquired CAEB, which has five employees, as part of its expansion into biological – or naturally occurring – insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Publicly traded FMC, which posted about $3.7 billion in sales last year and has 6,000 employees worldwide, is keeping all of CAEB’s employees, who will continue working in Research Triangle Park.

“We are building capabilities at FMC to enter what we consider a fast-growing biological crop protection market,” said FMC spokesman Thomas Golembeski. The RTP operation, he added, “involves the biological R&D piece that will be the foundation of that business.”

If that business is successful, he added, the RTP operation will expand.

The Triangle already is an agribusiness hub. Industry giants BASF, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Monsanto have major operations locally.

Jim Gibson, executive vice president and chief operating officer at RTI International, said in a statement: “We believe that as part of a much larger organization focused on agriculture, the CAEB staff will have greater opportunity to take CAEB’s technology further and make important contributions to sustainable agriculture.”

RTI, which is headquartered in RTP, formed CAEB in early 2011. At that time it said the center would conduct “advanced agricultural and biotechnology research that enhances understanding of critical plant-microbe interactions, physiological processes and metabolic modeling to enable a wide range of commercial applications.”

FMC also announced on Monday a strategic alliance with Denmark-based Chr. Hansen to develop and commercialize biological crop protection products. Chr. Hansen, which develops natural-ingredient products for a variety of industries, has more than 2,450 employees worldwide.

FMC has long had a lineup of synthetic insecticides and herbicides and recently expanded into fungicides.

“The crop protection business, Agricultural Solutions, is the largest and most profitable business FMC has,” Golembeski said. Last year, Agricultural Solutions accounted for $1.7 billion in revenue.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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