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Organic product proven to increase plant root mass and shoot growth by 26% launched in New Zealand.

Kiwi-born farmer, Ian Rew has launched a new ground-breaking, BioGro certified organic chitin-based product for growers in New Zealand, named Flamingro, which has been proven to increase plant root mass and shoot growth by 26%.

Chitin (pronounced KAI-TIN), a natural chain of glucose molecules that are structurally related to cellulose, is normally found in the shells of crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and insects.

Backed by 30 years of extensive research, development, testing and real-world use from his previous business in the US, Ian has redeveloped his original formulation specifically for New Zealand conditions.

“In California, in the vineyard regions, the climate was a lot drier and so a liquid formula applied through the irrigation systems made sense. Here in New Zealand, where we have much more rainfall, a dry product works better,” states Ian.

“In fact, this new dry product improves on the previous formulation and has a significantly higher chitin content than the previous product I developed in the US.”

The product’s name, Flamingro, is inspired by the fact that a diet rich in chitin is what gives the flamingo bird its beautiful pink colour. The ‘gro’ part refers to the increased plant shoot and root growth Flamingro promotes.

The new formulation is comprised of not less than 21% Chitin (Poly N Acetyl D Glucosamine) Humic and Fulvic Acids. During development, Ian’s new formulation went through extensive and successful testing at Ag Research Hamilton and Plant and Food Research Lincoln.

In the 2017 AgResearch trials, during a 9-week glasshouse pot experiment of white clover seedlings, it was here that Flamingro was found to increase clover root mass and shoot growth by 26%.

Flamingro induces and enhances the natural defensive mechanisms in plants by increasing local endophyte numbers in the soil. They enter the root system and create a barrier effect, where they prevent pathogenic microorganisms from attacking the roots and spreading disease.

The endophytes stop the pathogenic microorganisms, giving the plant’s roots a chance to thrive and grow a much bigger root mass, creating larger, healthier plants.

Roots of success

It was in 1992, while living in the US, that Ian discovered the benefits of chitin after noticing the improvement of his plant health in soil that he had treated with the substance.

Learning that this compound was playing a role as a plant growth regulator by bolstering plant defences against disease, he developed a commercial liquid product from the chitin, which is perfect for the conditions that grape growers face in the sunny climes of California.

After sharing the product with a few of his contacts, who also experienced notable improvements in their plant health and growth, it didn’t take long for word to get around about Ian’s product and his business in the US became a huge success.

“In California, much like New Zealand, the farming community is tight-knit, and I didn’t have to do much to market the product,” comments Ian.

As many ex-pat Kiwis will tell you, following decades away, the pull to return home can be strong. After 30 years in the US, Ian and his wife, Val, sold their original chitin product business, and came back to settle in the Bay of Plenty, just south of Rotorua along with their family.

They bought a farm and the idea to bring a chitin-based product to New Zealand was born.

Putting it to the test

In New Zealand in 2021, 6% of agricultural emissions were from nitrogen fertilisers. With fertiliser-use under increased speculation thanks to greenhouse gas emissions and other adverse environmental impacts such as water contamination, Flamingro presents a great organic and environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, with the nitrogen content of pure chitin being around 6.9 percent.

“In 2000, there was some research published in the Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association from AgResearch, that said that a gain of 1% in clover performance applied nationally was estimated to be worth up to $48 million,” says Ian. “And that was over 20 years ago, so there is huge potential for a product like Flamingro to make an impact.”

With the research in New Zealand showing favourable results, Ian is now using the same strategy that he used in the US for getting the word out about his new and improved chitin product for New Zealand growers, offering a number of free trials for vineyards and organic growers across the country.

Ian already has five growers carrying out free trials – ranging from vineyards in the Marlborough region, through to kiwifruit growers and dairy farmers in the Bay of Plenty. Although trials are primarily run on established trees and vines over one to two years, Flamingro would also work well for farmers who are looking to improve the quality of their pasture.

Ian’s confident that once growers try it, they will see the benefits.

“I offer free trials because once a grower experiences our product, they recognise its value. As a farmer myself, I understand the skepticism – if someone's selling me a product, I need to see it deliver results. That's why our free trials resonate so strongly with farmers; our product speaks for itself. Show me it works, and you've earned my trust – and my business.”

To learn more about Flamingro and to enquire about a free trial, please visit: