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Ag Products Marketer Taurus Invests in Wastewater-to-Fertilizer Startup Ostara

November 15, 2018

Taurus Agricultural Marketing, an ag products marketer headquartered in Calgary, has made a substantial financial investment into Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, a wastewater and crop nutrition technology company.

Ostara has been around since 2005 and offers a water treatment solution that treats wastewater in municipal and industrial environments, essentially stripping out a lot of the excess nutrients and creates it into an environmentally-friendly fertilizer called Crystal Green.

“From our perspective, this was a unique opportunity to bring a technology that helps growers be successful in producing more grain and more food and at the same time, helping to clean up the environment by removing phosphorus from wastewater,” Craig Davidson, Taurus’ president, told AgFunderNews. “Our investment is a testament to their team’s adept ability for innovation and relentless pursuit of providing sustainable solutions to agriculture.”

Ostara’s equipment can extract more than 90%of the phosphorus and 40% of the ammonia load from a sewage sludge stream of 500,000 liters per day.

“We’re a solutions-based business. We have a variety of different customers around the world that have water-treatment issues that are creating a lot of environmental issues, some quite serious,” Dan Parmar, Ostara’s president and CEO, told AgFunderNews. “Our philosophy is to work with those customers on a long-term basis, more on a partner-based model, not a transactional customer-based business. Typically, our contracts go on 10-20 years.”

Parmar explained Crystal Green is the first fertilizer that releases nutrients in response to plant demand thanks to its patented Root-Activated granule, and has been proven to improve crop yields, enhance soil health and significantly reduce phosphorus tie-up, leaching, and runoff, improving food security while protecting local waterways from nutrient pollution.

“Ours doesn’t dissolve in water; it only dissolves when the plant needs to feed, and it’s always available throughout a plant’s feeding cycle,” he said. “So, it creates a much higher yield for a variety of different broadacre and specialty crops. The product has a low salt index, low heavy-metal content and when a farmer pays for this, they are typically getting a $3 or more return in revenue to the farmer.”

The investment comes on the heels of a long-term distribution agreement between Ostara and Taurus in which Taurus agreed to market and sell Ostara’s Crystal Green phosphate fertilizer in Western Canada, Ontario, and Quebec. 

“They have a lot of experience with selling value-based products and that allows us to scale up our sales in Canada quite extensively,” Parmar said. “Along with that, their commitment to our company through their sales force and now this financial investment, they are believing in the growth profile of the company, not just in Canada, but globally.”

Once Taurus started distributing the fertilizer, it approached Ostara about helping them on a long-term basis and signed a five-year exclusive deal in the Canadian marketplace and decided to participate with the financial investment.

“Something new and unique like this requires positioning, education, marketing and sharing for success, and that’s what we do for their business,” Davidson said.

Taurus is helping Ostara with clarity on how the marketplace works and helping with its expansion in other parts of the world.

As part of the scale-up of the business, Ostara also signed a distribution deal with Israeli Chemicals in Western Europe.

“We have 15 plants around the world in North America and in Europe and recently signed a deal with a municipality in Tel Aviv,” Parmar said. “What we want to do is think strategically on how to solve these water treatment issues globally. That’s really two parts: treating the water and then selling the fertilizer. That is our strategic outlook for the business.”

Taurus’s investment supports Ostara’s partnership strategy and global expansion in crop nutrition and nutrient recovery.

“Their investment is really going to be utilized into accelerating our marketing plan for both Canada and the United States to employ additional resources and to help create a toolkit for other distributors in the marketplace to help us promote and sell Crystal Green,” Parmar said. “They are willing to add additional resources to help us do that.”

Ostara has two other long-term strategic investors, VantagePoint Capital Partners led a $14.5 million VC round in 2012 with Frog Capital and Waste Resources Fund L.P, and Wheatsheaf Investments, part of the UK’s Grosvenor Estate, led a $13 million funding round in 2013.

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