CALGARY, Alberta -Feb. 7, 2005--Agrium Inc.announced today plans to proceed with detailed engineering on a proposed expansion of its controlled release urea fertilizer product "ESN®" at the Carseland, Alberta nitrogen facility in response to overwhelming demand. The proposed expansion would increase ESN® coating capability from 30,000 to 150,000 tonnes of product per year. Should the project proceed to construction, the additional product would be available in the market as early as January 2006.
Research at U.S. Universities over the past two-year introductory phase, combined with numerous grower trials, support ESN®'s position as an effective, efficient, easy and environmentally smart alternative to conventional nitrogen fertilizers.
ESN®, or Smart Nitrogen, has a unique semi-permeable polymer coating that allows water to enter the urea granule and dissolve the nitrogen. The nitrogen release rate is controlled by soil temperature, which similarly determines plant growth and nutrient demand. Therefore, ESN® technology provides for a better matching of nutrient availability in the soil with plant nutrient requirements. The result is increased productivity per pound of nitrogen, providing an economic advantage for growers, while reducing nitrogen loss to the environment.
Agrium has been recognized for our controlled release program on a number of fronts. ESN® was awarded both Farm Industry News's FinOvation Award for the top product in the Crop Chemicals category as well as was named one of the Top 10 New Technologies by the Canadian Association of Agricultural Retailers. Additionally, the Government of Canada, through the Environmental Technology Assessment for Agriculture (ETAA) program, awarded Agrium with a $500,000 (Canadian) grant to fund research on controlled release fertilizers such as ESN® and controlled release phosphates over the next three years. The ETAA program identifies and assesses technologies to advance beneficial management practices on the farm.
"We are pleased to have received recognition on a number of fronts for ESN® however, the response we have received from our customers is the most rewarding," said Mike Wilson, Agrium's President and CEO. "We are proceeding with the further development of this project due to the exceptional demand from our customers, and because it will add value for our shareholders."
Agrium will continue to market ESN® primarily in the Corn Belt region of the Mid-Western United States where demand for this value-added product continues to grow. ESN® is an exciting new technology which is demonstrating to growers a new and better way to manage their nitrogen programs. Our patented polymer technology is also expected to bring value to other crops and Agrium is working with researchers, retailers and growers on a trial basis to further expand its use.