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Inventures: Davis biotech firms sets stage for 'Ag Tech Valley'

8:27 PM, Dec 26, 2013   |    comments
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DAVIS - By becoming the first local company in nearly a decade to launch an initial public offering, Marrone Bio Innovations is hoping to pave the way for other local biotech firms to do the same.

Davi- based Marrone Bio develops biological-based pest management and plant health products which are sold to farmers all over the world.

Founder and CEO Pam Marrone said this is something she's wanted to do since she was a little girl.

"I was way ahead of my time," Marrone explained. "I grew up on a mini-farm in southern Connecticut. Gypsy moths would come through and eat the forest and denude the trees and I would say I need to find a way to control them."

She started Marrone Bio in 2006. But she's no stranger to running a company. This is the third biotech firm Marrone has started in the area since 1990.

"This is the most exciting time of my career because these products are finally becoming mainstream," Marrone said. "Farmers are adopting them more quickly than they did in the past."

What this means for consumers: fruits and veggies sprayed with biopesticides are inherently less harmful than the ones sprayed with conventional pesticides.

Marrone's company is growing so fast, she decided to launch an initial public offering this summer.

Trading on the Nasdaq, Marrone Bio stocks raised an initial $56 million in cash.

"It gives us more credibility," Marrone said. "We created a new category on the stock market for high-growth bio stocks that didn't exist before."

Marrone Bio recently reported a loss of $6.1 million in the third quarter of 2013.

The move from private to public hasn't been easy.

"This is a long-term play so it's important to not look at thye stock everyday and freak out if it's going up or down," Marrone said.

She expects the company to be profitable in 2015.

She also hopes other companies will follow her lead.

"There's no reason why this region can't be "Ag Tech Valley," the Silicon Valley of ag and food and we are on our way to do that and having companies go public is important for that effort," Marrone said.

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