By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
KINGSTON – A Kingston-based company has again gone where no other has gone before: India.
Performance Plants Inc., whose technology genetically modifies plants so they are more resistant to drought and heat, has signed a commercial licensing agreement for three of its products with Mahyco, a seed company based in India.
"They are probably the top company in India," said Yafan Huang, president and chief scientific officer of Kingston’s Performance Plants Inc.
In the deal, which was officially signed on Boxing Day, Performance Plants will receive milestone and royalty payments from Mahyco in return.
In 2011, the company signed three deals with Chinese companies, its first forays into that country.
The deal with India is equally significant, Huang said.
"We know as a part of our corporate strategy that we have to go into India," he said.
While it has the most acreage for rice and cotton, and the second most for wheat, the yields are not what they could be, Huang offered.
"To us, it’s a huge thing going to a different country, a different culture," he said. "It comes down to everyone understanding they need to enhance their crop yield through any technology that can help."
The two companies will work closely together, Huang said, with some scientists from Performance Plants going to Mahyco and vice versa.
The two companies have been in talks for a while, Huang said, and Mahyco has done its diligence on Performance Plants.
"By signing this agreement, this means they’ll have to invest a lot of (research and development) money to push the product along," he noted.
While the deals Performance Plants signed with the Chinese companies helped get them some attention on the international stage, Huang has also been very busy promoting the company.
I’ve been giving a lot of presentations and talks at different conferences," he said.
The company – which has been developing its products for about a decade now – has been featured in industry publications as well, Huang said.
"We are pretty visible on the radar screen as a technology provider," he explained.
"So the publicity, plus the deals we have signed, really enable us to be noticed by all kinds of companies."
Also helping raise the company’s profile is the newfound interest in drought-resistant technology.
People used to question the need for heat- and drought-resistant technologies, Huang said, but now they don’t, particularly after a scorching hot summer that left much of the midwestern United States suffering from drought.
In fact, it was reported this week that 2012 was the hottest year, temperature-wise, in U.S. recorded history.
"Now everyone is looking for drought technology and in a big hurry," Huang said.
On Friday, Huang leaves for China as part of the contingent accompanying Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on a trade mission.