Agriculture Victoria Services Pty Ltd
Agriculture Victoria Services has established an investment fund to facilitate the further development of technologies that have been created by the Department of Primary Industries and have commercial potential. The investments are designed to help bridge the gap that often exists between the creation of a technology and the point at which the private sector is attracted to invest in the development of products utilising the technology.
The current portfolio of investments includes:
Phytogene Pty Ltd
Phytogene Pty Ltd was established in 2001 and is a wholly owned subsidiary. Its purpose is to commercialise a proprietary and patented delayed plant senescence technology with the brand name LXR?. The technology has a wide range of potential applications for major plant crops by increasing dry matter production and seed yield.
Phytogene is an early stage biotechnology development company. It continues to keep its costs low while it builds value in the company and deliberately runs and manages a tight budget. Cash flow from licencing revenue is positive, a situation which is forecast to continue.
Proof of concept of LXR? has been demonstrated in lettuce, white clover, lucerne, canola and wheat. Further evaluation is being undertaken in white clover, lucerne canola and wheat.
Patent protection is being extended into various geographies where major cops are grown, by direct National Phase and PCT applications.
Licence agreements have previously been executed in secondary crops in secondary markets and this strategy continues.
AgGenomics Pty Ltd
AgGenomics™ was established in 2002 as a joint venture between AVS and Genetic Technologies Ltd (GTG), an ASX-listed biotechnology company. AVS held 49 per cent of the issued capital in the entity. The company was formed to deliver high-throughput genomic sequencing services to agricultural industries.
Unfortunately uptake of the service by industry was less than anticipated and after an extensive review of AgGenomics™’ business prospects, the shareholders agreed to wind up the company. The subsequent application for voluntary deregistration was accepted by ASIC and took effect on 20 June 2012.
Several experimental lentil cultivars with tolerance to a class of important herbicides have been developed for Australian lentil growers. Imidazolinone herbicides are used to control broad leaf weeds in pulses, which is often an expensive task for growers. At present, all commercial pulse varieties available are intolerant of Imidazolinone herbicides, particularly sulfonylureas. A relatively small-scale, commercially focused, mutagenesis-based breeding program to produce a small pipeline of non-transgenic, herbicide-tolerant pulse varieties has been conducted. The breeding process of 'mutagensis' alters the DNA of a plant by making changes in the DNA sequence but does not introduce foreign DNA into the plant's genome, as occurs with transgenesis.
The program was successful in demonstrating proof-of-concept tolerance to the Group B herbicide, imidazolinone, and produced the first two (leading candidate) HT lentil cultivars. Both cultivars were the subject of wide-scale commercial grower evaluation, and one is targeted for commercial release in 2013.
The project seeks to develop 2nd Generation High Oleic, Low Linolenic (HOLL) Canola Hybrids with tolerance to important herbicides for Brassica napus. HOLL canola exhibits a number of benefits including improved stability at high temperatures and low-levels of saturated and 'trans' fats relative to palm oil. The co-investment with Cargill Incorporated (Cargill) is being used to develop improved conventional and new herbicide-tolerant HOLL canola hybrids, primarily in Australia and North America. The result of the collaboration has been the release of several commercial canola varieties comprising proprietary (high oleic) oil composition traits which confer health benefits to consumers via their suitability to cooking at higher temperatures.
An exit strategy has been devised, culminating in Agriculture Victoria Services offering to sell its rights in all joint HOLL canola germplasm to Cargill. A commercialisation agreement has been signed for the international rights. Cargill has also further increased its breeding resources in Australia and has a clear strategy to continue to advance and commercialise all joint HOLL germplasm in Australia for the benefit of Australian growers.
The project seeks to develop 2nd Generation juncea canola (canola-quality Brassica juncea) adapted to low rainfall, high temperature environments with the potential to capture a 10-20% share of the Australian and North American canola seed markets. Investment funds are being co-invested with the Canadian-based agribusiness company, Viterra Inc, to develop herbicide-tolerant juncea canola cultivars for commercial release in Australia, Canada and the USA.
Importantly, the project will develop the next generation of elite juncea canola cultivars with herbicide-tolerance, improved disease-resistance (ie. blackleg and white rust), improved quality and improved adaptation for low-rainfall canola growing regions in Australia.
The Primary Oilseeds Program is an oilseed cultivar development program comprising three sub-programs that deliver elite commercial canola varieties suited to Australian and Victorian canola growing regions. The three sub-programs have produced "Conventional" and "Triazine-Tolerant" canola cultivars and parental lines of 'IMI-Tolerant' ("Clearfield") canola.
Following the technical proof-of-concept of Agriculture Victoria Servics' HT Lentils, the Company invested in the development of further imidazolinone herbicide-tolerant cultivars including barley, lentils, chickpeas and field peas. This four-year project will produce herbicide-tolerant barley and pulse varieties to enable grain growers to better manage weeds and provide a new crop rotation option to coincide with the introduction of GM canola varieties.
The project is focusing on screening genotypes from barley and pulse mutant populations for improved tolerance to herbicides for broad-leaf and grass weed control and fast tracking HT commercial cultivar development, evaluation, multiplication and release, with the assistance of commercial seed and chemical partners.