By Fran Lyons
Guayule (gwa yoo lee). Not a well-known word. If you haven’t heard it before, you probably will, especially if you live in Maricopa.
Guayule is a silver-leaved shrub of the daisy family indigenous to the southwestern United States and Mexico. It grows locally.
It was cultivated in the early 20th century by industry and investment pioneers such as Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller for its promise to produce rubber. The sap of the plant yielded a high volume of latex that produced a rubber compound.
It served a multitude of applications including the World War II effort led by Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was a colonel in the Army in a study of guayule as an alternative to rubber.
Fast-forward to 2014. Lance Beem, a plant physiologist working at the University of California-Davis, conducted trials on the guayule plant for its potential to increase crop growth. He found he was really onto something significant and far-reaching.
He discovered he could extract from the guayule plant a property that would increase crop yield to growers. It is called ISO NPK. It’s a bio fertilizer. It is naturally sourced, non-toxic and certified organic.
Chief Operations Officer Ben Cloud said ISO NPK offers one of the most potent fertility products on the market. “We call it ‘giving your crops wings.’ Plants actually respond to an application with rising branches and leaves for a physically visible response.”
Events shaped rapidly from this discovery. Beem Biologics was established in 2014. Four founding members – CEO/Chairman Stephen Butler, PhD, COO Ben Cloud, Director Lance Beem and Director Rodolfo Manzone, PhD – came on board with experience and expert skills to develop a new product with great possibility.
Development continued with the founders opening a facility in Maricopa, a rich, agricultural resource area that has the guayule shrub growing in abundance. Research and development continues at UC-Davis.
The purpose became clear to the founders: “Develop and supply biological compounds that are naturally derived and sustainable for use in growing crops.”
Beem Biologics has entered a licensing agreement with one of the largest crop protection industries in the world – Arysta LifeScience – and has conducted successful, broad-spectrum field trials of ISO NPK.
“Our mission is to become a premium provider of breakthrough biological technologies throughout the world,” Cloud said. “The impetus for this shift is the awareness of the agriculture industry and communities at large, to see the opportunity and benefit of using naturally derived compounds. They are safe, economical and highly effective in increasing crop yield for growers.”
Biological compounds, or AG biologicals, provide many of the answers that face the chemical crop industry.
“At Beem Biologicals, we intend to advance ‘Healthy Soil, Healthy Food and a Healthy Planet, based on science,’” Cloud said.
Beem Biologics currently has an inventory that would provide product to 1 million acres. Beginning in 2019, marketing will expand and the projected growth will be 10 million acres of product coverage to meet market demands over the next five years, according to its business plan.
Rick Brower is the operations manager. He is an Arizona native who has lived in Maricopa since 1988.
“I have been working with the potential of the guayule shrub for 10 years, and I am really excited to be here in Maricopa at this amazing time to hit the ground running,” he said. “Our timing is right to move away from conventional chemical products that deplete the soil to a non-toxic, organic product that revitalizes and enhances crops.”
This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.