16 Aug 2010

Foul-tasting grass may prove lucrative

6:01 am on 16 August 2010

PGG Wrightson is hoping to turn an accidental scientific discovery - a grass that tastes horrible to birds - into millions of dollars of revenue.

The listed rural services company has created the grass which is unpalatable to birds, attracting the interest of airports from all around the world.

Attempts to keep birds away from airports, where they risk flying into aeroplanes, has been a constant struggle for the aviation industry.

It is estimated that bird strikes cost the airline industry $6 billion a year.

But PGG Wrightson's managing director, Tim Miles, says its new grass has the potential to keep airports bird free, and become a lucrative money spinner for the company.

He says usually the company is trying to develop products that animals want to eat more of.

But Mr Miles says the scientists found that with a certain product, if there was enough of it there, birds hated it.

He says the product is now being trialled.

PGG expands into Brazil

Meanwhile, the company is expanding its South American seed business into Brazil.

PGG Wrightson counts its South American operation as one of its success stories in a tough trading year.

While overall revenue fell by $130 million or 10%, the firm's seed, agrichemical and fertiliser sales in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina grew by 8%.

Mr Miles says the company is moving into Brazil because that market for seed products would be bigger than the rest of South America combined.

He says they are getting seed cultivars registered in Brazil, they have established some R&D farms and are developing specific products for the South American market.

PGG made a profit of $23 million in the year to June, a turnaround from the $66 million loss in the previous year.