1. Could you briefly explain your company’s major business, global presence, product series and core competitiveness?
Peters & Burg: Peters & Burg Agrochemical Holding is a leading producer and supplier of generic agrochemical products, founded in 1999. This year, our team is happy to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Our core businesses include the production and distribution of agrochemicals, and the manufacturing and distribution of specialized packages, as well as our seeds business and agricultural production. Our headquarters is in Budapest, Hungary, and we have distribution networks in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Hungary. With several years of experience in the field, Peters & Burg Holding employees over 350 highly qualified professionals.
Since 1999, we have been actively entering new markets, never stopped expanding our distribution system, and have invested more and more into research and development. Today, these are still our top priorities. Our experts have registered more than 350 products in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Georgia and Hungary. Peters & Burg will step into its third decade of history, but we are a very young and ambitious company. Of course, expanding our core businesses and finding new clients and markets are our prime goals. One of our targets and most challenging task is increasing our EU market share. At the moment, we have a couple of on-going registrations and more products will be launched soon. Other areas are to expand our business in Caucasus region, so Georgia, Azerbaijan and so on, as well as the Middle East. We also plan to extend our production units with separate lines for dry products and innovative types of formulations. Stepping into the field of precision agriculture services and exploring green technologies and biopesticides inspires our team to discover new horizons and market possibilities.
Our core competitiveness is our experience, flexibility of thinking and ability to combine Western reason with Eastern wisdom, by offering innovative European quality products at acceptable prices. Another of our strong qualities is the integrity of our related businesses branches, whether seeds, agrochemicals and packaging, both production and distribution, which have enabled us to develop an organization system in the most cost-effective way. At present, we can produce up to 15 million liters of pesticide formulations annually. Companies owned by our holding now generate a total turnover of around US$100 million, which is many times what it used to be at the beginning.
Another of our qualities is the professionalism of our team, who are true masters of their crafts. Some of them have worked for the company for more than 10 to 15 years, are experts in the industry, and are really good at what they do. Peters & Burg is proud to be the home of experts from various nationalities and cultural backgrounds.
ALFA Smart Agro: ALFA Smart Agro is a Ukrainian company founded in 1997. Initially, the company’s main business was the registration and importation of pesticides from China. In 2016, ALFA Smart Agro launched its own pesticide formulation plant in Ukraine with a capacity of 12,000 tons per year. Besides its production business, ALFA Smart Agro owns R&D facilities that develop new formulations. Currently, the company covers several business areas, which are crop protection products, micronutrient fertilizers, corn and sunflower seeds, and agricultural commodity trading. The company is the largest local crop protection product supplier in Ukraine. ALFA Smart Agro has a market share of 6.5% in Ukraine’s crop protection product market in terms of value, and over 9% in terms of volume.
Today, we operate in Ukraine and Russia. We have also began registrations in Poland, Romania, Belarus and Moldova. We plan to start selling in these markets in 2021-2022. According to our strategy, export markets should generate at least 35% of our sales turnover in five years.
ALFA Smart Agro currently has 199 pesticides registrations in six countries. Most registrations are in Ukraine, with 140 products already registered and 10 are in the process of registration, and in Russia, with 29 registered products and nine in the process of registration. In 2019, we began the registration process in Moldova, Belarus, Poland and Romania.
The Ukrainian crop protection market didn’t show significant growth in 2019 due to weather conditions. However, ALFA Smart Agro achieved its planned overall growth. According to market analysis, the overall area treated with ALFA Smart Agro products increased by over 20% compared to 2018.
AMVAC: AMVAC is a global developer and producer of pest control products for the agricultural, turf, ornamental and greenhouse, professional and consumer, and vector control markets. AMVAC owns and operates four manufacturing locations in North America. AMVAC has subsidiaries in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Netherlands. Our product portfolio include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, molluscides, fumigants, plant nutrients, bio-rational chemicals and biologicals. The insecticides, AZTEC®, COUNTER®, and THIMET®, and the herbicides, CLASSIC®, IMPACT®, FIRSTRATE®, and SCEPTER®, are just a few of AMVAC’s well-known products in its rapidly expanding product line. AMVAC also manufactures and sells SmartBox® closed handling equipment for the application of granular soil insecticide products. AMVAC is a leader in precision application with the new SIMPAS™ (Smart Integrated Multi-product Precision Application System). SIMPAS represents a major evolution in the advancement of easy, accurate, at-plant, in-furrow prescriptive application of multiple products in a single pass. SIMPAS will revolutionize precision agriculture and the way crop protection products are applied.
Our target markets are US crops, including corn, soybeans, cotton, peanuts and potatoes. We also sell in the turf and ornamental market and have a good presence in the greenhouse market, as well as in the household market. In the international arena, we are growing in Latin America, including in Brazil, as well as in Asia-Pacific. AMVAC is also planning to expand into the biological, organic and biostimulant market.
Oxiquimica: Oxiquimica is a Brazilian company that focuses on the research and development of new technologies for agribusiness and crop production that are highly effective and safety for the environment. Our portfolio includes copper fungicides, foliar nutrition, application technology and special adjuvants that comply with market standards and demand.
We are based in Brazil and are active in countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Our focus is connected to farmer’s sustainability, profit and safety, based on their environment needs and sustainable crop production requirements.
Oxiquímica’s strategic markets are row crops, winter cereals, sugar cane, coffee, fiber and vegetables, along with controlling fungal diseases and bacterial diseases, leaf nutrition and products for application technology with special formulations. Oxiquímica is constantly developing and creating new products to meet the needs of farmers. Therefore, we are preparing ourselves for new market trends with regards to innovative products that are easy to apply, in line with international regulatory standards, and ready to be used around the world. Beside that, our goal is to target biological and organic markets which have been growing significantly.
2. What is your overview of your company’s agrochemical formulation production and main formulation types? What are major challenges are you facing right now in the processes of R&D and manufacturing of formulation?
Peters & Burg: We specialize in the production of liquid pesticide formulations. Our general annual production capacity is 15 million liters. We have five separate production lines for water and solvent-based fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. The lines for production of water-based formulations, such as SC, SE, EW, FS and ME, have a capacity of 16,000 to 35,000 liters day while for SL and EW this is 40,000 to 60,000 liters per day. The lines for production of solvent-based formulations, such as EC, OD and UL, have a capacity of 40,000 to 60,000 liters per day.
Farmers have consciously began to use pesticides while considering environmental protection and land health, with a focus on innovation and quality, which means developing anti-resistance programs and diversifying and preparing complex tank-mixes that, along with several pesticides, also contain micronutriens, humic, fulvic acids and adjuvants. This will help farmers reach higher effectiveness and save costs and time on separate applications. The resistance to common organophosphates and pyrethroids has lead to the popularity of combined products with multiple types of actions. These mixtures are based on the principle of “combinatorics,” meaning that, as the word itself tells us, are combinations of 2-3-4 off-patent compounds belonging to different chemical classes or with different modes of action, both systemic and non-systemic, in a complex system. The usage of straight 1 products is cutting down recently.
That is why our R&D team is constantly searching for novel solutions to existing agricultural issues and the best technological methods for implementing our ideas in real agricultural practice. At present, there are over 50 innovative combinations in our R&D pipeline, and more than 20 new registrations in process.
From a market point of view, our challenge is related to elaborating and finding technological solutions for multi-component innovative combinations that no one has produced before. These mixtures have no equivalents on the market and may include technologically-complicated cases, such as sulfonylureas in liquid form, in combination with other active ingredients. Sharp competition is pushing the development of competitive but good quality products.
From a technological point of view, we are facing the following challenges:
- Crystal growth of suspended solid particles in aqueous suspension concentrates (SC) and seed treatment suspensions (FS), especially in the case of suspo-emulsions (SE).
- Physical stability of suspensions in solids that have several polymorph crystal structures.
- Improving storage to ensure the low and good blooming/dispersion spontaneity of OD formulations, as well as efficient anti-caking and thickening agents for OD.
- Application of green solvents in the case of EC (emulsifiable concentrate), eventually in the case of ME (microemulsion).
- Developing and producing fluid high-loading dispersion (suspension).
- Improving milling efficiency in suspensions that contain solids of significantly different melting points, solubility and lipophyilicity.
ALFA Smart Agro: Currently, our plant produces the following formulations: Soluble liquids (SL formulations), Suspension concentrates (SC formulations) and Suspoemulsions (SE formulations). In the future, we plan to start producing WDG formulations.
In 2019, ALFA Smart Agro opened a new R&D laboratory where our scientists can enjoy expanded facilities for developing and testing new formulations.
We are focusing on the development of products with several active compounds, which are more efficient and more cost-effective for growers. This approach leads to new challenges related to combining the active ingredients of a formulation with different physicochemical characteristics.
For example, when combining two neonicotinoids with a pyrethroid in an SC formulation, we faced an issue of the different water solubilities of these active ingredients. Under the influence of temperature, they turn into different aggregative states, and the formulation can lose stability. During the product development process, we conducted many tests to ensure the right co-formulants quantities and ratios, to get stable and efficient new and unique formulations.
AMVAC: We manufacture a diverse set of formulations of the following types: suspension concentrates (SC), emulsifiable concentrates (EC), granules (GR), wettable granules (WG), wettable powders (WP), capsule suspensions (CS), soluble liquids (SL) and others. Some of the main issues affecting formulation R&D is the changing regulatory landscape and the demand for multiple actives in one formulation. Manufacturing challenges include quality control issues, as well as the need for constant clean-outs when maximizing equipment utilization and realtime manufacturing.
Oxiquimica: Oxiquimica is a company specializing in high technology liquid formulation development, and is always focused on product performance and farmer’s needs while meeting the technological demands of applicability that constantly advances with automation, equipment improvements and water reduction requirements, in accordance with international rules and regulations.
The biggest challenges in our industry include the need to meet global environmental, legal, financial and logistical demands while maintaining high levels of control, with active ingredients and innovative blends that meet all of these criteria. On the other hand, investments in R&D are increasingly higher, due to the need to adjust and maintain product performance in an increasingly heterogeneous environment, forcing all production and manufacturing systems to adapt to these new conditions that determine the rules of this constantly evolving market.
3. What technologies have your company adopted to facilitate the formulation of innovative technologies? What innovation formulation technologies have been launched by your company?
Peters & Burg: Concerning invention, development and launch of new products, the philosophy of Peters & Burg is based on the principles of environmental safety, flexibility, immersion into the local market (CIS region), as well as its current trends and particular needs. In comparison to multinationals, where products and formulas are developed and oriented for universal distribution and registered globally, we have immediate constant feedback and communication with end-users and can fully commit to solving regional agricultural problems.
The team of agronomists, phytopathologists and entomologists at our research center, PlantClinic®, conducts tests and experiments to model the most effective means of addressing local phytosanitary challenges. Our specialists collect phytosanitary data and crop samples from various regions, which is why our tests are carried out on local crop varieties, types of pathogens, insect species and generations of weeds, enabling our specialists to investigate agricultural issues not just on a national level, but also at a local level.
Another obvious advantage of innovations brought by generic companies like Peters & Burg is the variety of active ingredients we test. Multinationals usually prioritize their own proprietary molecules of the same chemical class.
Our R&D team is looking for the best technological ways to implement the ideas of PlantClinic® into real agricultural practice. From a market point of view, our challenges include elaboration and finding technological solutions to multi-innovative component combinations that no one has produced before. These mixtures have no equivalents on the market and may include technologically complicated cases, such as sulfonylureas in liquid form in combination with other active ingredients. Another key task is to select actives, coformulants and mixtures that have the least retardant and phytotoxic effects. For 2020, we have more than 50 innovative unique combinations in our R&D pipeline, and more than 30 new registrations in progress, as well as more than ten patent applications.
In terms of technological innovation, Peters & Burg is focusing on developing and producing aqueous formulations, such as soluble liquids (SL), suspension concentrates (SC), suspoemulsions (SE), seed treatment flowables (FS), concentrated oil-in-water macroemulsions (EW) and microemulsions (ME) according to market demands. To ensure good biological efficiency, these formulations frequently contain built-in adjuvants. In the case of water-sensitive active ingredients, Peters & Burg makes oil-dispersions (OD) and research trials are currently being conducted to introduce capsulated actives (CS, ZW). Concerning solvent-based emulsifiable concentrates (EC), we replaced dangerous solvents in old formulations. When developing new formulations, we only use eco-friendly and safe ingredients that do not cause any human and eco-toxicological issues.
Let me introduce some of our successful products, which found good acceptance by the market. One of such products is a seed treatment for cereals, Antal™, FS (tebuconazole 60 +thiabendazole 80 +imazalil 125), registered in Ukraine in 2009. This unique combination was among our first proprietary developments, and for a long time, did not have equivalents in Ukraine, due to its high efficacy and low application rates. One of the challenges we faced at that time was the comparatively high concentration of active ingredients, the incorporation of a colorants, and preserving quality consistency during storage.
Another good example of a successful collaboration between agronomists and technologists is the unique selective soybean herbicide, Volens™, ME (acifluorfen 200 + clomazone 42), which has a wide application window, low application rates and a wide spectrum of controlled weeds. The product is a microemulsion and has a high content of surfactants that boost biological efficiency. Resident™, SC (fenpyroximate 120 + pyridaben 300) is our strong contact acaricide applied on sunflowers, soybeans, vineyards and apple trees. The product is effective against all developing stages and adult mites; it has a strong knockdown effect and long residual activity. Thanks to the synergism of compounds and a high concentration of active ingredients, the product has low application rates. Both products are protected by a Ukrainian patent. Among other distinctive combinations are Folio™, EC (propisochlor 580 + flurochloridon 200), Sentinel™, EC (propisochlor 576 + metribuzin 60), Kiper™, SC (tebuconazole 162.5 + thiabendazole 250), etc.
ALFA Smart Agro: One of the most prominent formulation innovations launched by ALFA Smart Agro recently is the Smart CompleX technology, which was selected as a finalist in the Best Formulation Innovation nomination of Crop Science Awards 2019 (former Agrow Awards).
This technology relates to water-based suspension concentrates in which the metal prochloraz complex, with an appropriate anion, is produced in situ as an integrated part of the manufacturing of the water-based suspension concentrate. Smart CompleX Technology can transform the entire formulation approach to neat prochloraz and metal complexes, because it allows for an easy and cost-effective way to manufacture the water-based suspension concentrates of products, previously available only in solid forms. Together with production cost advantage, this technology is aimed at reducing the use of solvent-based formulations and providing the market with operator and environment-friendly formulations.
Now, we use SmartCompleX technology in the production of innovative seed treatment products—Kantaris and Avicenna.
AMVAC: AMVAC is at the forefront of formulation technology innovation and has launched a number of products utilizing sophisticated interfacial polymerization techniques, as well as unique fertilizer compatibility approaches and enhanced adjuvancy formulations. We utilize modern and novel characterization techniques in our formulation development, including low shear rheology, Raman microscopy and other techniques to develop high-value formulations. The innovation at AMVAC is based on combing fundamental sciences, including colloidal, interfacial and rheological sciences with an in-depth understanding of chemical, formulation and engineering designs to ensure the quality of our product offerings.
Oxiquimica: Oxiquimica has invested a lot into specialized people, R&D equipment and partnerships with research institutes, researchers, surfactants companies in Brazil and abroad. The investment and effort were able to develop formulation patents and new production processes, in which the most modern equipment was used.
All this innovation in formulation was necessary to develop new products, which have a high concentration of active ingredients, blends with two or more compounds in the same formulation, foliar nutrition products and high efficiency adjuvants.
The new products launched include fungicide mixtures with high efficiency on several crops with low doses, applier safety, sustainability, easy handling, high value and competitive costs.
4. Could you share some changes in your target market in terms of market requirements, regulation & policy and application technologies? What improvements/adjustments have been made in the formulation development to address these changes?
Peters & Burg: Concerning the CIS market, the situation definitely facilitates the augmentation of investments in R&D and the adoption of innovative technologies, especially by generic companies. Considering the high variety of available CPPs, as well as spreading resistance, farmers are no longer satisfied with the conventional one-component straight formulations. The clients, especially big agricultural holdings, demand contemporary, innovative and safe commodities to manage their issues in the field. Agronomists are modeling anti-resistance programs, diversifying the range of means and preparing complex tank-mixes, which help reach high efficiency and save costs and time on applications. Biological, ecological and safety problems of outdated high-dosage pesticides, as well as patent exemptions of a variety of new molecules lead to the popularity of complex products with multiple types of actions. These formulations can combine at once 2-3-4-5 off-patent compounds belonging to different chemical classes or with different modes of action (systemic & non-systemic).
There are hundreds of such products in the market in Ukraine and Russia; for example, the Ukrainian Pesticide Manual of 2018 edition contains more than 2,700 products. If we look at the imported product range in Ukraine for 2017-2018, we will find, that some 50% of insecticides have two or more components. Among fungicides, multicomponent items comprise some 63% of the product range, not to mention seed treatments, where combinations of active clearly dominate straight products (95% of the product range).
From a regulatory point of view, there is a plan to fulfill harmonization with the EU regulation system according to 1107/2009 in Ukraine, as well as to implement the Directive 128/2009/ЕС, (ЕС) №1907/2006, 528/2012 (on biocides) and MRLs. If that is going to happen, the manufacturers and farmers might look at tangible alternatives for a variety of banned products. For example, in Moldova, the authorities are already constantly monitoring and strictly following the EU's decisions regarding displacing obsolete or dangerous products from the market, such as Imidacloprid, Dimethoate, Desmedipham, Acetochlor etc. The same concerns related to all the coformulants, such as solvents, emulsifiers etc. Naturally, Peters & Burg has been following EU guidelines and replacing prohibited coformulants with contemporary eco-friendly materials. Among recent trends is the popularity of aerial applications, which have stricter acute toxicological standards to formulation, for example in Russia, Peters & Burg developed a special recipe for Alphacypermethrin 100, EC, where acute toxicity and irritation qualities were reduced to a minimum.
Particular attention is paid to avoiding undesired crystal growth, and we always compare the performance of wide range crystal growth inhibitors. Our experience shows that permanent/constant quality of active ingredients is indispensable: the same quality of active should be applied during laboratory trials, scale-up and real industrial production. For this reason/purpose, all the raw materials are under quality control investigations; a permanent impurities profile, pure polymorphism is advantageously required.
To avoid crystal growth, the distribution of narrow or monodispers should be achieved when the milling process is being carried out and it is necessary to keep this distribution (size and shape, respectively) in an unchanged state during storage. Therefore, high performance auxiliaries must be applied. Peters & Burg carries out trials using polymeric surfactants, and accelerated storage tests are very important for screening when we should eventually change the source of any ingredient.
For this reason/purpose, the constant quality of active ingredients is indispensable (it is particularly necessary to make special combinations containing two or more different active ingredients with the following targets):
- solutions to combat resistency (in the case of main problems to kill resistent weeds)
- consideration of MRL (maximum residue level) requirements, which provide a decreased dosage of the critical active ingredient. Obviously, higher doses and repeated applications of conventional formulations lead to the accumulation of pesticide residues in vegetable commodities along with environmental pollution. New combinations and/or formulation types can offer the possibility of reducing negative impacts.
Ecological /environmental impacts:
- Study of application drift control agent: Built-in drift and tank-mix drift
- Special sticker/binder application in seed treatment aqueous FS formulation
- Elimination of dangerous inerts: For example, replacing tallow amine ethoxylates in glyphosate
-IPA aqueous SL formulation (using betain derivaties)
- Prediction of aquatic toxicity for the pesticidal mixture.
ALFA Smart Agro: The most important factor which influences the CP market, as well as the agricultural market in Ukraine in general, is a new law on the sale of agricultural land. Growers try to get ready for the opening of the land market and accumulate funds for the purchase of land. This leads to the optimization of crop inputs expenses and decrease of CP expenses.
Another important factor is climate change. Year on year, we see that climate zones are changing, and we have higher temperatures and less precipitation for crop vegetation. It resulted, for example in decreasing winter wheat areas by 10%, which is traditionally the largest crop in Ukraine.
Our company is focused on market needs. Changes in weather conditions set new challenges for us. Therefore, products developed by ALFA Smart Agro researchers should be more efficient in a wider temperature range than traditional products. In the first turn, it relates to insecticides and fungicides. A significant challenge is also the adaptation of formulations to be used in a different water pH rate.
AMVAC: We have expanded our crop base in the USA and have made significant inroads into Latin America and other world markets, and starting development into the biological and household segments. We had to adjust our use of inerts to fit the regulatory climate, as well as customize our formulations to deliver a biokinetic value.
Oxiquimica: The Brazilian government is improving the regulation environment for agrochemicals in order to include new applications and technologies as we can see on the new plant protection product registration requirements; therefore, Oxiquimica has been empowering its regulatory department with new tools and specialized professionals.
5. In your opinion, how do you construct the ecological circle of innovation and development of formulation?
Peters & Burg: The primer goal of Peters & Burg is to contribute to the needs of the growing population and the situation of limited food resources and promote sustainable agriculture at the same time. We are guided by a number of principles:
- All our products undergo environmental assessment (LCA, ecological footprint, cost-benefit analysis).
- We use the most eco-friendly and advanced technologies to reduce the environmental impact of our products to the most possible minimum.
- We plan to take extended producer responsibility for our products from cradle to grave through the introduction of a used agricultural plastic container take-back programme.
- We follow the principles of efficient water and land use, reduced energy consumption and biodiversity conservation.
- We educate our customers to promote the most efficient, safe and environmentally friendly utilization of our products.
- As a leading producer of off-patent crop protection products, Peters & Burg takes the responsibility of ensuring the safety and health (HS) of our employees and customers. We managed to achieve and maintain the highest HS standards. Certified by ISO 9001:2008, we established our management systems, operational and manufacturing standards according to the strictest HS requirements. This includes the safest and most innovative equipment at all our production and R&D units. Regularly, all our employees undergo accident prevention and occupational safety training. Furthermore, our special HS monitoring system allows us to prevent any accidents caused both due to the violation of HS rules and equipment failure.
ALFA Smart Agro: We always consider environmental impact as a very important factor while developing new products.
Thus, we are decreasing the usage of organic solvents, switching from EC formulations to SC formulations. We develop and register new products and use active ingredients, which are safer and less toxic for the environment.
The development of multi-component products empowers a synergy between different actives and helps decrease the quantity of pesticides without losing product efficacy in the field. It also helps reduce the load of pesticides to the ecosystem.
ALFA Smart Agro production facilities are certified according to international standards ISO 9001: 2015 (quality management system), ISO 14001: 2015 (environmental management system) and OHSAS 18001: 2007 (occupational health and safety management system).
AMVAC: AMVAC develops technology platforms based on ecological benefits, further based on experimental biological and biokinetic data. These technologies are then incorporated into formulation development to ensure a good ecological utilization of our formulations.
Oxiquimica: Oxiquimica’s sustainable processes are certified by international standard organizations, including usage for organic agriculture, proving the high efficiency and safety of our compounds and raw material ingredients.
Aligned with the global demands, our cycle of innovation is focused on minimum toxicity, high active ingredient concentration to dose reduction in the field, and environmental and social responsibility, always improving processes targeting the water economy and zero waste.
This article was initially published in AgroPages 'Annual Review 2019' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more articles.