One of the stated concerns as timberland moves from industrial ownership to investor ownership is "Where will the seedlings come from?" Investors want the timberland but not the nurseries.
International Paper, in particular, had a large forest seedling production capability. MeadWestvaco, although with less production capacity, also has outstanding seedling capability. Loss of these quality nurseries would be significant from a forest production standpoint and probably from a seedling cost standpoint.
Several years ago, a forest biotechnology company, called ArborGen, was created by I-P, MWV and Fletcher Challenge. Fletcher Challenge was later broken up and the Rubicon piece became the partner in ArborGen. The thinking behind ArborGen was that it might make more sense to combine existing technology and future research dollars than for everybody to do their own thing. The idea took, not quickly, and ArborGen was born.
ArborGen's product is improved tree performance through biotechnology. The product's package is the seedling. The founders have now provided ArborGen with all the packaging they need! All United States nurseries belonging to International Paper and MeadWestvaco are now owned by ArborGen. Rubicon's New Zealand and Australian nurseries are now owned by ArborGen. Along with the nursery operations come the seed orchards, germplasm, researchers, more technology and more intellectual property. ArborGen is entering a new era. Read the news release here. Visit ArborGen here. --Brian