A Chat with BVT’s CEO on the Company Creating a Real Buzz in the Exploding Agri-Tech Marketplace
Bee Vectoring Technologies’ CEO, Ashish Malik, recently sat down with Dave Jackson of Stockhouse Media to discuss BVT’s role in Food System Transformation that was discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year and its strategy for growth in 2020 and beyond. Read the full interview below, or listen to the complete podcast (14.5 minutes) embedded here.
Stockhouse: Welcome to Stockhouse Media and a Stocktalk Podcast, where we help listeners and investors understand more about investment opportunities in capital markets. I’m Dave Jackson.
It’s not often retail and institutional investors come across a company that’s not only providing real value and opportunity for investors, but it’s making an immensely positive impact on global agricultural sustainability. But Bee Vectoring Technologies International is, in fact, just that kind of company.
BVT is focused on the control of pests and the enhancement of crops and ornamentals by creating innovative biological controls in a variety of application processes. The company has developed and owns patent-pending bee vectoring technology that is designed to harmlessly utilize commercially-reared bees (both bumble bees and honey bees) as natural delivery mechanisms for a variety of powdered mixtures comprised of organic compounds that inhibit or eliminate common crop diseases.
Today we’re glad to be joined by Ashish Malik, CEO of BVT. Mr. Malik has many years of experience in the agri-tech sector, having previously served as the Vice President of Global Marketing for biologics at Bayer CropScience, as well as senior VP of Global Marketing at AgraQuest. He holds an MBA with concentrations in finance and marketing from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College. Thank you for joining us today, Ashish.
Ashish: My pleasure, Dave. Glad to be here.
Stockhouse: Glad to have you. Now for our listeners that may be discovering your company for the first time, can you please give us a little background history first about yourself and a brief overview of what bee vectoring is all about?
Ashish: Certainly. Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. As you mentioned, my training, my bachelor’s degree, is in engineering, but I’m also somebody who’s passionate about food and our food systems. I’ve been in the agricultural industry now for about 17 years and I’ve worked at some of the biggest multinationals in the industry like Syngenta and Bayer CropScience. I’ve also worked in start-up environments to develop and commercialize disruptive technologies. Throughout my career and through these 17 years in agriculture, I’ve become passionate about making our food system safer, and better yielding, while at the same time being affordable and sustainable for the planet. I believe this is one of the most important issues that we face today as a society. So that’s what’s brought me to BVT and what makes me so excited about the technology and what we’re doing here.
We are an agricultural technology company that is changing how farmers grow their crops. We’re commercializing a disruptive tool that increases productivity for every farm acre of land in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way. And along the way we’re increasing profits for the farmers.
Stockhouse: Now Ashish, we’re hearing a lot about growing global agricultural sustainability. This was a hot button topic out of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year. How does BVT’s technology assist in building, as you mentioned, this new green revolution?
Ashish: At Davos this year there was a lot of discussion about our food production systems and how we can make them more efficient and at the same time more sustainable. It’s what the pundits are calling Food System Transformation. The issue in a nutshell is that we need to find a way to make agriculture land more productive because we will soon have 10 billion people walking this planet and that’s by 2050. Those are the projections. That’s 2 billion more people than we have today. And a lot of that growth is coming from a burgeoning middle class. And what that translates into is a higher desire for greater caloric intake and more food. At the same time, the arable land that’s available for farmers to grow the crops is decreasing. You know, we all get upset when we hear about the Amazon forest being deforested. So when you do the math about the greater demand for food and a supply issue around the amount of arable land, it really boils down to the fact that we have to double the productivity per acre of farm land over the next 30 years.
But the real challenge is how can we do that in an environmentally responsible way. And that’s where BVT comes in. Our technology uses the natural pollination process of commercial bees to deliver biological products directly to the flowers of crops. Biological products are natural alternatives to chemicals, which means that farmers can use less synthetic chemicals. That means less pesticides and less synthetic fertilizers. And using bees to deliver these biological products to crops is very efficient. So a farmer can use a lot less product and water in growing the crops that they grow, because they’re able to deliver these crop treatments in such a highly targeted way. So rather than indiscriminately spraying an entire field and ending up with a lot of chemicals that get wasted because they go into waterways or in areas between the rows of crops, BVT’s technology is very precise and natural. So we’re changing how growers grow their crops ultimately, Dave. We’re improving agricultural productivity in a manner that uses less water and it’s not harmful to the environment, including the soil, bees, workers, and ultimately us the consumers. We actually call this natural precision agriculture. So we see this technology as a key to the new green revolution and the Food System Transformation that was discussed so much at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Stockhouse: It’s amazing technology. Now Ashish, how has BVT grown since its incorporation?
Ashish: So we are in our eighth year as a company and there’ve been a number of milestones along the way. One of the most significant milestones, which was completed in 2019 towards the end of last summer, was to gain our first regulatory approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, in the United States. Now that we’ve achieved that, we’ve begun the next important phase in BVT’s growth, which is commercialization. This commercialization phase is about generating sales and generating demand for our products with growers. We’ve been doing this initially in the US with a heavy focus in the South-eastern states of the US. But we will be focusing next across the whole country.
At the same time, we’re planting the seed for the next chapter of our growth, which will be expansion. In expansion, we’re going to go and open up new markets. We’re starting the early work in Europe already. We now have an office there. We have an R&D center in Switzerland and we’ve already got our registration dossier submitted under review with the Swiss authorities. We will soon be submitting in Mexico and may go for broader European expansion registration even later this year. And then in the chapter beyond that, we expect to have truly a global presence. And that might take us three or four years to get those registrations, but we will be able to market our products in multiple countries around the world at that stage.
Stockhouse: Now can you tell our audience a bit about your corporate strategy moving forward, Ashish?
Ashish: As I mentioned, our technology is very unique and we use commercial bees to deliver biological products to crops. We’re the only company in fact that has both biological products combined with the patented bee delivery system. So part of our commercial, our corporate strategy I should say, is to include partnerships with companies that will allow us to reach markets where we are not present today and to expand our product portfolio rapidly. In fact, we have a portfolio of about 15 such partnership discussions ongoing.
For example, we’re talking to companies on the go-to-market side who have a strong presence in certain markets and who can market our system in the countries where they operate. We are also talking to companies that have biological products that could be delivered through our bee delivery systems.
We’re also building relationships with bee companies. And there are two types of bees I want to remind our listeners. We have commercial bumblebees as well as honey bees. We’ve already built partnerships with some of the larger bumblebee suppliers on a worldwide basis and we’ll continue to foster those relationships as we develop and launch our system in other countries beyond the US. We’re also building relationships with the commercial honey beekeepers. Honey bee hives tend to be used more for large outdoor acres and we’ve developed our system that works with honey bees. And through this we’ll be able to access the many large outdoor acre crops. For example, in the biggest opportunity that we have in the United States is actually in almonds that are grown in California where about 2 million honey bee hives are used every year to pollinate about a million acres worth of almond orchards. So a key element of our corporate strategy is to foster and build these partnerships.
Stockhouse: So Ashish, as the agriculture technology sector gains more and more traction internationally, how do you see your company as a game changer within the current marketplace status quo? And if so, how do you generate a competitive advantage for the company moving forward?
Ashish: Good question Dave. We’ve got something very unique, so that’s a great place to start from. We are the only natural precision agriculture company, as we’ve discussed before. There are other companies that are using precision application techniques, but they involve robots or heavy machinery, lasers, things of that sort. But to use bees to deliver tiny quantities of product to crops, that’s an all natural precision application company.
So we start from that concept and then we build competitive barriers to give us this competitive advantage. It starts from having a very strong patent portfolio. We have invested heavily in intellectual property. We’ve now secured about 65 patents worldwide in five different technology areas. We have another 35 or 40 that are under review. So at the end of the day we will have close to a hundred patents on a worldwide basis.
That will really allow us to find the right partner in any given market. For example, let’s pick a country in South America, say Chile. Once we have our patents granted in the Chilean market, we don’t necessarily have to have our own sales force there because we don’t have a direct presence. But what we will do is find a partner that’s already very strong in the local market, we will license our IP to them and let them develop the technology or develop the market while we sit back and collect a royalty or maybe generate revenue from selling our microbial product to them. But they will ultimately take the risk in the local market. It’s a great way to think about our business model to be less capital intensive, but with the strong IP portfolio we can have a very strong business long term.
The other areas where we have a competitive advantage are registrations. So the regulatory approval process that we got in the US for example gives us 10 years of data protection, which is almost as good as a patent at the end of the day. So other companies cannot cite our data to get into the US market. If they want to have access, they have to go through the exact same process that we went through for over three years to get the federal US registration.
Stockhouse: So Ashish, what’s next for BVT? What should we be watching for in the upcoming months?
Ashish: So 2019 was all about completing that development stage and to get the EPA registration. Now that we have that, the next 24 months will be focused about getting traction on revenue. Here our market growth strategy is to increase revenue in multiple crops from multiple growing regions across the US. On any given crop, the market is very different as you go through a big country like the US. For example, blueberries is an initial target, it’s probably the biggest short term opportunity for us. Blueberries are grown in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, Washington State, Oregon, and California. And in each of these states conditions are different, the needs for the farmers are different, so you really have to validate your fit in all of those different regions. We have tremendous traction in the Southeast already in blueberries and also in strawberries and now we have to find a way to replicate that in other geographies across the US. But at the same time we have to start our developments outside the US, in Mexico and Switzerland and in Europe for example, and build the partnerships that we discussed previously. All of these things are what are going to get us not only the revenue growth that we want, but also the expansion that we ultimately want as we then go to the next chapter in our evolution.
Stockhouse: And finally Ashish, what can you tell our investor audience regarding the current valuation of your stock and quite simply why it’s a good value buy right now.
Ashish: So Dave, the single biggest message I want to give the audience is that this is a company where, from a technology perspective and an R&D perspective, we have now de-risked the investment. This is akin to a pharmaceutical company getting the FDA approval on a brand new cancer drug. That’s how significant the EPA registration was for us in 2019. Now that we’ve got that and we have the patent portfolio, we are in a great shape. So it’s a great time for an investor who wants to not necessarily take a lot of that R&D risk but to participate in all the growth that’s yet to come from revenue generation and opening up new markets, to come in. We’re very excited about the stage in our company and I think there’s a lot of upside as we move forward and execute on our business plan.
Stockhouse: Thank you very much for joining us today.
Ashish: My pleasure.
Stockhouse: We’ve been speaking with Ashish Malik, CEO of Bee Vectoring Technologies. I’d like once again to thank Ashish for joining us and sharing his helpful and insightful information about BVT with our podcast listeners and investors. Once again, for Stockhouse Media, I’m Dave Jackson. Thanks for listening.