Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2008 (Revised January 2011)

Arcadia Biosciences: Seeds of Change

by Arthur A. Daemmrich, Forest L. Reinhardt and Mary Louise Shelman


Arcadia Biosciences is an entrepreneurial California agricultural biotech company seeking to earn carbon credits by modifying commodity crops for use in China and India. Eric Rey, Arcadia's CEO, faced a strategic inflection point in early September 2008. The company had a plan to share carbon credits allocated by the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board to China, for use of Arcadia's rice varieties, since they enabled farmers to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use, in turn lowering greenhouse gas emissions. But the company's proprietary traits for nitrogen use efficiency, salt tolerance, and water use efficiency also had more conventional paths to market based on licensing deals to large seed companies. Alternatively, Arcadia could acquire a seed company and develop and market its seed directly. A different near-term growth area involved commercializing enriched safflower oil, which had undergone several proof-of-concept tests and for which Rey foresaw a clear market in nutritional supplements and functional foods. The case provides context on the company; describes advances in crops genetics focused to climate change and associated resource issues of fertilizer use, water use, and soil salinity; and poses strategic choices for a start-up company operating at the intersection of business, agriculture, and climate change.

Keywords: Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Growth and Development Strategy; Environmental Sustainability; Science-Based Business; Weather and Climate Change; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Biotechnology Industry; China; India; California;


Daemmrich, Arthur A., Forest L. Reinhardt, and Mary Louise Shelman. "Arcadia Biosciences: Seeds of Change." Harvard Business School Case 709-019, December 2008. (Revised January 2011.)