Dr. Heino Papenfus- Directer of Research & Development; Kelpak
Tim Chitwood- VP of QLF Agronomy
QLF Agronomy has proudly distributed Kelpak, a natural seaweed extract, in the United States for over seven years, experiencing exponential growth and sustained consumer demand. This exceptional kelp product was introduced to QLF when a customer in the Pacific Northwest sought a cane molasses fertilizer to enhance foliar feeding and assist in the uptake of the Kelpak product in the Tree (almond) and Vine (grapes) markets.
QLF’s Liquid Carbon-Based Fertilizers (L-CBF), such as BOOST, containing significant amounts of sugar cane molasses, have proven advantages in foliar feeding due to their alignment with key adjuvant characteristics that deliver multiple benefits. Aside from serving as a “sticker-spreader,” one of the crucial features our customers desired was the humectant-type properties found in L-CBF BOOST, maintaining leaf hydration for extended periods.
The journey with BOOST has led QLF Agronomy to make discoveries and gain insights into the numerous benefits of their products. This journey parallels that of Dr. Heino Papenfus, whose exploration of seaweed extracts ultimately brought him to Kelpak and, subsequently, to QLF Agronomy.
About Dr. Heino Papenfus:
Hailing from a small farming town in South Africa, I gained a reputation as the quirky kid collecting anything that grew and breathed—whether snakes, scorpions, minerals, or rare plants. Even today, I continue my quest for rare orchids, succulents, and bulbs, much to my wife’s chagrin. Though, I suspect she’s secretly relieved that the reptiles are safely tucked away in the bushes.
My academic journey commenced with a BSc Honours degree in medicinal plant science. An intriguing turn occurred when I received an MSc bursary to explore polyamines in the brown seaweed, Ecklonia maxima. These biologically active compounds, present in every living cell, from bacteria and fungi to plants and animals, fascinated me. They play a pivotal role in various cellular processes, from intercellular communication to cell division. Most notably, their stress-mitigating properties caught my attention. Imagine this: a polyamine solution sprayed onto crops during heat stress helps them handle the situation better than untreated plants.
Now, you might wonder, “If polyamines occur naturally in all plants, why should I care if they’re also in a seaweed stick that grows on the west coast of South Africa?” Well, the answer is as straightforward as growing up in a tough neighbourhood makes you tough. Due to the tumultuous environment in which the seaweed thrives, enduring the relentless crashing and swaying in the turbulent waters along the South African coastline, these polyamines accumulate at notably high concentrations within the seaweed.
The stress-alleviating effects of seaweed bio stimulants weren’t a ground-breaking discovery, with researchers noting their abilities since the early 1980s. However, by investigating these compounds, we gained a much deeper understanding of seaweed bio stimulants and their mode of action.
As a student, I set out to quantify polyamines not only in raw seaweed but also in commercially available bio stimulants made from the seaweed. Ecklonia maxima seaweed is unique in that it only occurs on the west coast of South Africa, thriving in water temperatures below 57°F and benefiting from nutrient-rich waters upwelling from Antarctica. Various companies manufacture bio stimulants from Ecklonia maxima harvested at different locations along the coast.
Given that polyamines are known to be stable molecules, I assumed all these biostimulants would contain polyamines to some degree. My assumption was way off! Some products barely had detectable polyamine levels, while others contained only a small amount. Only one product stood head and shoulders above the rest, and that was Kelpak. Kelpak contained polyamines at concentrations that could be beneficial to treated plants.
Further investigation revealed that Kelpak also boasted more alginic acid (an intrinsic compound that gives seaweed a slimy feel), amino acids, polyphenols, and potassium—the highest macronutrient found in E. maxima seaweed. After completing my PhD, there was no doubt in my mind that Kelpak was the leader in the seaweed bio stimulant market, and I never looked back. Today, I head the R&D department at Kelpak, constantly amazed by how Kelpak supports farmers to overcome environmental stresses and enhance the yield and quality of their produce around the world.
Dr. Heino Papenfus will collaborate with the QLF Agronomy Team in the last two weeks of February, touring the Midwest and meeting customers and prospects. Following a two-week tour, including a LIVE broadcasted webinar from QLF’s Agronomy Research Center in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, Heino and QLF Agronomy representatives will attend the Commodity Classic in Houston, Texas. Follow along on QLF’s Kelpak Tour to learn from Heino about how this biostimulant’s features and manufacturing process deliver results for farmers in over 80 countries worldwide.