Mar. 7, 2018
- Grace Yuan
Grace Yuan, editor of AgroPages. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With such high activity in the agri-input industry, our focus remains on our customers and elevating our presence in the growth regions to deliver the best experience. AkzoNobel has opened technical services laboratories in South East Asia, China, Brazil, and India in support of our customers, and we recently commissioned a new manufacturing site in Ningbo, China, to support local companies in the region. We are also developing sustainable customer-focused solutions that are aligned with the latest regulatory requirements around the world, and which support our most recent number one ranking in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The agricultural chemical industry is under cost pressure and we are focusing on operational excellence and complexity reduction. Global Ag chem companies will require large global chemical suppliers with good regulatory knowledge and chemical process capabilities in the near future.
There is increasing environmental and consumer pressure for clean labels and healthy food around the world that has led to the removal of some actives and adjuvants. AkzoNobel is actively preparing for the changes, and we welcome the opportunities for sustainable solutions and “green” adjuvants. In addition to adjuvants, emulsifiers and dispersants, we are broadening offerings to include a new seed coating, Adsee™ ST4, and a unique green solvent, Armid® FMPC. Seed treatments are a growing area and Adsee ST4 is the outcome of a new innovative starch-based technology from AkzoNobel. This sustainable polymer reduces dust while handling seeds without compromising on flow ability or germination. Armid FMPC is a water-soluble co-solvent that enhances the solubility of traditional solvents in the same way as old chemistries such as NMP. We now have modern options to revitalize formulation types, such as Emulsion Concentrates, with solvents that meet the standards of the future. An example of a recently introduced dispersant polymer with several functionalities is Agrilan® 755. It is designed to solve your most complex dispersant challenges in water-based suspensions. At the same time, it will prevent crystal growth, contribute to the emulsification and stabilization of oil droplets, and can be used to stabilize oil-based dispersions. Further, for the oil-based dispersions, we have introduced a complete dispersant/emulsification package, Berol® 9985, with the main focus on the Chinese market.
In the near future, we are working on new multi-functional solutions to address complex formulations with high electrolyte levels. Drift reduction, improving biological effectiveness and reduced pesticide loss are very important topics and offer an opportunity for improvement.
Innovation is another key focus area for the Ag industry going forward. Our surface chemistry business utilizes technology road mapping to ensure that research and development (R&D) is focused on the right areas. As a large chemical and coating company, we have access to new front-end technology that we bring to the agricultural industry. Our ambition is to work closely with our customers to provide technical solutions with a good environmental and sustainability profile.
Huntsman Performance Products
Consolidation within the agrochemical industry is a part of doing business. Consolidation of the ‘basics’ is a response to increased regulatory costs, and the need for a bigger ‘bank’ to deal with the cost of innovations in pesticides and formulations. So what does consolidation do to a traditional adjuvants, inerts and intermediates manufacturer? Consolidation means, of course, fewer customers with more purchasing power per customer. As everyone well knows, there are really only two choices. A company may choose to be a low-cost provider or choose to provide more value for the money spent. Being a low- cost provider can be easy but it does not provide long-term relationships.
A company in Huntsman’s position has to focus even more on meeting the customer’s needs. The more difficult choice is to try to provide more value. Providing more value includes strategies such as partnering with the customer to offer custom solutions, providing more innovative materials that solve formulation challenges or even providing services that other companies in a similar field may not provide. With these and other solutions, the additional value brings closer, more valuable, long-term relationships that will provide benefits over many years for all parties.
There are many critical issues facing the adjuvants and inerts industry, including drift issues, increased ecological scrutiny, and the movement toward more ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. The problem the adjuvants and inerts industry keeps running into is being called upon to do more at lower rates than ever before, preferably at a lower cost. With manufacturers trying to put as much active into the bottle, the amount of inert allowed in the bottle is less. In the tank, the applicators and farmers want to use less and want it to cost less. So the amount of inert added to the bottle and the amount of adjuvant added to the tank, all have a downward pressure.
The way to deal with these market pressures is to innovate. Huntsman will create new molecules that address specific issues within the market. The introduction of our new TERSPERSE® 2612 dispersant has addressed issues of Ostwald ripening and other dispersant problems in formulation while pretty well holding the line on cost. The water conditioner market was ready for innovation based on a low-cost solution where ammonium sulfate can no longer be used. As a result, we developed TERMIX® 4110 water conditioner that is non-ammonium-containing. While not as cheap as AMS on a per pound basis, the TERMIX® 4110 water conditioner is highly competitive because of a lower use rate and is not excluded from some tank mixes like the ammonium-based products are. The product has given competitive results in performance compared to AMS in three years of blind trials at various universities. These are examples of meeting market needs with adjuvants and inerts in a way no other company is doing right now.
Huntsman will continue to innovate, especially in the area of surfactants, dispersants and other in-can and tank-mix ingredients for the agrochemicals area. The strongest way to move through the marketplace and capture more business is to find needs that are not being met and meet them. Huntsman will stay aggressive in its development of new solutions to problems through its innovation pipeline. Huntsman’s motto is ‘Enriching Lives Through Innovation’ and we intend to continue that vision well into the future.
This year we are observing sustainability of ingredients used in formulation with a special focus on the Ag adjuvant and formulation area. The term 'sustainability' can be viewed as products with favorable ecotox profiles that deliver high performing and cost-effective formulation and should be viewed as the materials supplier’s target goal to serve the agrochemical industry. This trend brings opportunities for Dow to launch green solvents in 2017, such as POWERBLOX™ SV-33 and SV-92 with excellent dissolving abilities to unlock the power of agrochemical formulation. The solutions offer favorable toxicity and better environment, health and safety (EH&S) performance as well as ready biodegradation to minimize the impact to soil.
One challenge we see is cost optimization requests from customers. Our solutions help deliver the active ingredients in a more efficient way resulting in fewer applications. So, we are getting more performance out of the same amount of money, which allows our customers and farmers to save in the whole value chain. In the last couple of years, the Dow Crop Defense has launched a new surfactant line called the ECOSURF™ EH series that provides great wetting and penetration in adjuvant formulations. It is used as an enhancer in Glyphosate formulation and tank-mix to improve its efficacy in the field. Another line was developed specifically for the Chinese market but we do see its increased popularity in other countries as well. It is a suitable formulation and adjuvant for the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to solve compatibility, anti-evaporation, and drift control issues that are required by the market. In collaboration with customers, Dow has come up with some successful field cases to help formulators solve these issues this year, and will continue to work with the industry to provide solutions for this emerging area.
Regarding the future development of products, the most important trend we see is sustainability. That has been guiding a lot of our product development work to provide solutions for more advanced and environmental agrochemical formulation types and green solvents to improve solubility performance and efficacy in response to pesticide resistance concerns. We see this as a wonderful opportunity as our overall products development work has been precisely addressing sustainability, developing biodegradable surfactants, solvents, and amines with better ecotoxicity profiles. Our future vision is to be the global provider of inert and additive agrochemical ingredients with application expertise to meet customers’ specific needs. Our goal is to be the customers’ leading chemical partner, enabling them to produce actives and formulation that enhance yields.
We perceive these mergers and acquisitions (M&As) both as challenges and opportunities. This evolution is leading to fewer players but also to stronger companies with a better ability to cope with future challenges. This consolidation trend is spreading to other parts of the supply chain, for instance into the Specialty & Performance chemicals area. So this is something we, at Borregaard LignoTech, are of course taking into consideration by trying to adapt ourselves to this changing environment. The investments in human resources, lab equipment and processing capabilities that we have done, will certainly contribute to consolidate our position in the industry. Furthermore, we are taking a strategic step with our new AGRO lignins plant in Florida going into operation next year to support our future growth in the market.
The agrochemical industry needs to be able to continue to invest in new products and technologies with support from suppliers like us who can help with problem-solving. Some good examples are the increasing complexity of formulation, including several active ingredients or adjuvants and the tank mix compatibility issues. The biopesticides area is also bringing new challenges and we believe that we will also have a role to play there to help with the formulation and the shelf life of the products. In 2017, we have launched Greensperse S9®, a new Spruce lignosulfonate-based dispersant that significantly improves electrolytes tolerance and can help avoid precipitation problems due to high salt content. Greensperse S9® can be used in WDG to provide faster dispersibility of the granules and also in SC to give good suspensibility and longer storage stability. Our plant nutrition range has also been expanded, with our ready-to-use micronutrient range Borrechel being now available in micro-granulated form.
Borregaard LignoTech has been involved in the agro business for a long time, providing environmentally friendly solutions to the crop protection and plant nutrition sectors. We are feeding our development with a strong R&D and closeness to the markets and customers. Our company intends to continue to develop new products and solutions for the crop protection industry based on our AGRO Lignins technology, dispersing agents mainly, but also other solutions for UV protection of light-sensitive actives, crystal growth inhibition and complexing properties. In our plant nutrition sector, our main focus will be to develop further our Lignin and modified humic acid ranges into the micronutrient & soil conditioner sectors but we want also to significantly increase our presence in the biostimulants sector.
As the agrochemical value chain consolidates, we see it becoming more difficult for agrochemical companies to differentiate with highly specialized products and support. This consolidation favors suppliers who can specialize and bring innovative products that help advance new farming practices. From the time Monmentive introduced Silwet* organosilicone adjuvants in 1985, we’ve continued to expand our portfolio through our SAG* high-performance antifoams, and regionally tailored brands, such as Jiexiaoli* and AgroSpred* adjuvants. Our focus is always on providing proven, high-quality, high performance adjuvants through sustained investment in innovation. As specialists in organosilicones for agriculture, Monmentive also offers expert technical support to help agrochemical companies provide specialized education and assistance to their customers, helping them differentiate in an increasingly competitive environment.
Increasing population, shrinking farm land area, and increasing demand for more environmentally friendly farming practices will require continual improvements in the efficiency of agrochemicals. This can be achieved by maximizing the performance of spray treatments. Super-spreading organosilicone adjuvants provides maximum coverage through superior spreading and adhesion. This leads to improved spray efficiency through lower pesticide use rates and lower spray volumes, allowing growers to treat more area with fewer tank mixes. Monmentive’s Silwet organosilicone adjuvants have enabled growers around the world to achieve maximum performance from their treatments with up to 50% lower use rates and 60% lower spray volumes. Maintaining performance as a core benefit, Monmentive has extended its Silwet organosilicone adjuvant portfolio with offerings that provide advanced features such as drift control, rapid penetration, rainfastness, and compatibility. Monmentive also provides OMRI certified organosilicone adjuvants for use in organic farming.
Monmentive believes in using innovation to solve challenges. We approach each opportunity with tenacity and technology. When you combine our deep industry knowledge and the vast collective experience of our employees with a collaborative style, it yields exponential results. We believe in asking "What if?" Then, together with our customers, inventing something that makes "What if?" real. This philosophy has served Monmentive for over 75 years. As world economies continue to change, this approach will be critical to our continued success.