Spokesperson for Organisan Corporation, Tom Wood Shares How They are Using Chitosan Products to Help Farmers Combat Plant Disease and Fungus While Improving Nutrition Without Using Chemicals and Synthetic Products
Interview conducted by:
Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive
Published – October 4, 2023
CEOCFO: Mr. Wood, before we get into what you are doing at Organisan, would you tell a little about yourself and how a farmer in Idaho ended up with Organisan, a Georgia-
Mr. Wood: The quickest version of this story began in 2014 in southern Idaho when we had an anomalous weather event. We got close to the cereal grain harvest in August, and it started raining and would not stop. Because with that, there was a disease that showed up called vomitoxin. The technical name for it is deoxynivalenol, a type B trichothecene, an epoxy-
I had a little bit of background at this point because we had been playing with some biological seed treatments and biological inputs on the farm. I was primed and programmed in this direction at that time. In the fall and winter of 2014-
In 2016, we brought the Organisan 0II-
CEOCFO: You also worked in the chemicals industry, providing services to farms and farmers. What was that like? What were some of the issues you experienced and what caused you to want to make a change in your career and life?
Mr. Wood: I grew up in the chemical industry. My dad started a crop-
In the fall of 2014, my brother and I started to see a pattern emerge where the farmers that had to fumigate regularly had a much worse vomitoxin infection than the farmers who did not have to fumigate. At this point, some dots started to connect that this was all biological related. That seed was planted in my brain, and you just cannot help but make observations sometimes. We started to watch who had what disease pressures and this or that problem. We then got into what comes first, the chicken or the egg, and do these farmers have these problems because of these treatments, or do they have a problem because of a lack of treatments?
In the spring and fall of the year, my wife would have the refrigerator loaded with yogurt and kefir for me, and I would take all kinds of probiotics. I had some arthritis at the time, and my hips would get so bad that I could hardly walk some days. I knew there was a connection between my physical symptoms and application season. At this point, I was consuming white papers pertaining to biological research. A realization emerged for me that Nature never allows a void. This is what we were doing wrong. We are creating voids with modern agriculture that we don’t come back and address. This lack of filling the void is where the problems arise from.
I now felt like I was living in two different worlds and had to make a decision whether I spent the rest of my life killing things in nature, or I could learn how to grow things in nature and help fill the void. The timing was good when Mark Nichols approached me. I think we all want to leave things in a better place than where we found them, and I no longer felt like what I was doing was going to be beneficial to anyone long term.
CEOCFO: Are most farmers aware of the risks associated with the use of chemicals? Are they actively looking for an alternative as you were?
Mr. Wood: I think most everyone understands there is a risk involved with many of these applications. My observation is that the chemical industry has done such a good job of ingraining itself into everyday society that we don’t focus too much on the risk. If the farmer has a problem, you call your salesman at the fertilizer company and tell them about the ABC problem, so they sell you XYZ product in a jug to take care of ABC for you. That is as far as it goes usually. Many times, the solution to a problem is causing the next problem, but do not worry because there is another chemical in a jug to take care of that problem. This becomes a cascading chain of events and all of a sudden. We are in a hole and do not know what went wrong or how to get out.
The farming industry has been groomed by the chemical industry as a whole, so most farmers aren’t looking for alternatives that might be safer because we’ve been taught that what we’re doing now is safe. Farmers start looking for alternatives when modern solutions are no longer providing the cure. I’ll give you an example:
Potato farmers are keenly tuned in to the nematode population because they are affecting the product that they are trying to sell. It usually starts out of nowhere. One year, you suddenly have a little nematode damage. They start with topical nematode products that get them by for a couple of crops. Then, the nematode population grows, and the damage is increased. Now the farmer has to start into some of the soil fumigants along with the topical to get them by for a few more years. The nematode population keeps growing, and they are putting more inputs in and each time. They move up in a class of treatments, and the expense keeps going up. The nematode population continues to expand long term. Suddenly, one year you have a white mold problem that you’ve never had before. Now, you need three fungicide treatments to get your crop through the season. By this point, the input costs of raising a crop of potatoes has gotten so high that the farmer is now looking for alternatives.
By the way, the connection between nematodes and white mold is an enzyme called chitinase.
CEOCFO: This brings us to Organisan and its amazing alternative to chemical use, their chitosan-
Mr. Wood: Chitosan is a natural derivative of a compound called Chitin, which is the second most common polymer in the universe only behind cellulose. Chitin is one of Nature’s building blocks. The analogy I use for the difference between is almost the same difference between crude oil and gasoline. Chitin is a raw product and chitosan is a refined product. After refining, we now can predict how it will perform and better control the outcome of its usage. What Dr. Blanchard has done with our chitosan would be analogous to high octane race fuel. In the example I gave before of nematodes and white mold, the chitosan triggers microbes to produce the chitinase enzyme.
What we do with our formulations is interject ourselves into a natural process that happens all the time to some degree whether you realize it or not. I think what happens with a lot of our soils in the path of degradation that we find ourselves on, is we lose a lot of those beneficial microbes that produce this chitinase enzyme. As farmers, we do not put anything on to feed those microbes. With the Chitosan formulations that Dr. Blanchard and our science team are developing, we are triggering those organisms to produce this chitinase enzyme and are a fantastic food source for the rest of the beneficials. There are a lot of natural processes that occur when chitosan is applied. One of these is the antifungal properties. When the good Lord and Mother Nature put this system together, there was a distinction made just about right down the line from what we would term a pathogen and a beneficial one. It has to do with the membrane fluidity and how much moisture is in the organism. What we would term a pathogen is going to have a higher chitin concentration than a beneficial one. There becomes an attraction between the chitin parent material within the cell and the chitosan on the outside of the cell that try to come back together. There is enough of a pull between that cell membrane, it is like two strong magnets on either side of your finger. That pull will tear that cell membrane, and that pathogenic organism will die of cell lysis. This is how we have an EPA-
I have worked with farmers that went to soil health conferences in the winter. They get excited and decide they are going to start focusing on soil health and are not going to spray fungicides anymore because that will reduce the mycorrhizal population. You can’t just quit spraying fungicide cold turkey on your farm. If your soil is degraded to the point that an infection manifests itself, you have to do something or you are not going to have a crop to harvest. We have turned our soils into drug addicts and, like any good detox/rehab program, we need to take steps to get clean. We can step in immediately and help dramatically with the fungicides. As soil health improves, you eventually realize that you simply don’t need a fungicide or nematicide anymore.
CEOCFO: Do you offer a consulting service as well as your products?
Mr. Wood: I do find myself in a consulting role. I am probably the cheapest consultant you’ll find, but you get what you pay for!
CEOCFO: What are some of the other things Chitosan is used for besides farming?
Mr. Wood: If you start googling chitosan as an adjuvant, most of what is going to come up is going to be for medical purposes. This compound gets used as a drug delivery mechanism because it is so good at this. This is also what we find with plant nutrients we can help with the distribution and delivery. Chitosan is also a fantastic coagulant. The bandages that we give our troops in their backpacks when we send them to the battlefield are infused with chitosan because it will work to stop the bleeding and help to stave off infection. A lot of this stuff gets marketed in the weight-
CEOCFO: Besides farms, you also provide products and consulting to major golf courses. How did you get into this area and is this a growing area for you?
Mr. Wood: In Idaho, you might have a municipal golf course that the city owns, but I did not have any idea of the golf course industry that goes on in the South. Our Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mark Nichols ran one of the largest landscaping companies in the Southeast for years. That was where he was first introduced to our product. The product was used for yard installations, and maintenance on some of the largest residential developments in Georgia, so Mark was well versed in this segment.
It started with just a couple of golf courses in Florida a few years ago. They started treating for nematodes. It’s interesting that nematode applications for the turf industry are the same product that we would use in agriculture. They just give it a new name and increase the price astronomically. We would show up and start treating greens and tee boxes because, traditionally, that is all they could feasibly afford. Preferred Source in Naples Fl. is a dealer for Organisan and Kevin was treating for nematodes on a couple of golf courses. The courses started to see nematode reductions, greener grass, better water efficiency, less fire ants and more benefits.
Within that industry, the superintendents move around. Next year, we would get a phone call from a golf course and people would tell us they had used our products at another golf course and wanted to know where they could find them now. Some of our dealers now are mainstream chemistry distributors brought to us by the customer because their customer wanted these products from their traditional dealer. It is crazy how fast we have blown up on the golf course world, and our National Sales Manager John Hendrix has done a great job leading that charge. Our fastest growing markets are the turf and golf industry, and regenerative agriculture.
CEOCFO: Where will most of your future growth come from?
Mr. Wood: We have such a fit with the regenerative movement. Everything that regenerative agriculture is trying to do, we can help them accomplish that and speed that up. For the time being, that is where the momentum is. We also do a lot of work in organic, which is interesting to me. What most people think of when they think of organic is doing it from your backyard or holistic. When you buy organic at the supermarket, many times that is big-
CEOCFO: Are you selling directly or through distributors?
Mr. Wood: The founders just basically started from the back of their vehicles. It was farm-
CEOCFO: I have watched your amazing video where you explain in detail Organisan and the use of chitosan. What else are you doing as the spokesperson for the Organisation? You are interviewing with me for CEOCFO. Do you make appearances at special events, fairs, and conferences?
Mr. Wood: Yes, and my job here with Organisan has been an ongoing evolution. They hired me to help them with the west out because it was an increasingly growing territory for them. As things progressed, I realized that we should maybe be doing this and should probably be doing that. I put together my first rudimentary PowerPoint presentation for a group of farmers in Iowa back in 2018. The feedback grew from there. I understand from my years in the chemical industry that there is a model that exists. and there is a way that the farmers have become accustomed to receiving information. I try to mold my presentations into that. I realize when you hear about Organisan products for the first time, it is a pretty crazy idea, so I try to use the same delivery mechanism just with a different message.
Being a farmer myself, I relate to farmers, and I do not care what crop you are growing. We can sit down and all have problems and situations that are similar. I love farming and helping figure out that there are ways to do this to increase = profitability while potentially producing a safer, more nutritionally-
CEOCFO: In closing, there is an old saying, "You are what you eat." Does this mean that everyone in the world should be pulling for the success of a special company like Organisan?
Mr. Wood: Oh yes! When you put good stuff in, good stuff comes out. You put junk in, you get junk results. When I talk and meet with people, they may have this disease of affliction. So much of this boils down to inflammation. We need to be asking what is causing the inflammation? With so much of this, we are lacking nutrition in our diets. I encourage people to go support their farmer's market and introduce yourself to your local farmers. The regenerative agriculture movement, as far as affecting a very large swath of production acres in a short amount of time, is going to make an impact. There is some technology coming down the pipeline that is going to change this whole dynamic of nutrient density. I encourage people to check out the Micro-
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