A new start for plant compounds

Leon Mur

Email: leon.mur@plantenstoffen.nl

Four years ago, Greenport Westland and the Province of South Holland joined forces to examine whether the horticulture sector could meet the growing demand for natural ingredients in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and aromatics and colourants industries. This led to the founding of the Centre of Expertise for Plant Compounds (KCP). Over the past few years, KCP has been the main matchmaker between the horticulture sector and market parties that are searching for natural ingredients and innovative substances.

KCP completed its first term of engagement at the end of December. During that period, we identified market opportunities, conducted feasibility studies and acquired a wealth of knowledge about plant compounds. We also succeeded in building up an international network and launching various product development processes in the field of packaging, green crop protection and flavourings, amongst others.

In short, four years in which we built up a huge store of knowledge about the market. We now know what works and what doesn’t work, and which positioning of the horticulture sector fits best with the Bio-based Economy. Not as a supplier of biomass but as a source and supplier of new plant molecules for high-quality markets. This positioning also makes things more difficult, however, because by definition, high-quality applications require longer development processes and a large amount of venture capital. Our most successful projects actually focus on these market applications.

One of those successful projects involved developing the Extract Library, which was launched on 14 December last year. A database of more than 2000 plants was compiled and their extracts are now finding their way to companies that are looking for innovative plant molecules for use in new cosmetic and crop protection products, amongst others. This heralds the start of new product development projects with the horticulture sector, and companies inside and outside the Netherlands are already showing a keen interest in the Extract Library. Which is no surprise, given that the initial results are very promising and the library won an innovation award at the 2014 Siñal Exhibition in France.

Looking ahead, there are a number of interesting developments on the agenda in the near future. Together with various parties, we have started re-organising the plant compound domain in the Province of South Holland. We’re now working on a joint programme with the greenports, BBPZH, the University of Leiden and Wageningen University. This joint effort should result in a clear international position and increase our combined strength on the market.

So I’m certain that 2016 will see us realising a number of breakthroughs together in the field of plant compounds. Resulting in more innovations and commercial opportunities for the horticulture sector and a greater focus on the development of plant compounds for the bio-based economy!