FMC: Strengthening the Application of Automation Control and Artificial Intelligence in Formulation Development and Engineering
Jun. 25, 2020
"At FMC, automation control and artificial intelligence are areas of growth in formulation development and engineering. In scale-up and manufacturing, the use of fully automated production and packaging lines with advanced sensors and AI to control and optimize processes is growing,” said Sergiy Paleshanko, Global R&D Manager, Formulation at FMC and Albert Siuta, Director Global Formulations and Process Development at FMC in a recent interview with AgroPages.
They also shared their views on challenges and corresponding solutions of formulation engineering technology, some new technologies for formulation engineering, the development of automation control and artificial intelligence in formulation engineering, and some changes in market requirements, regulation & policy and application technologies and countermeasures etc.
Q1. What is the overview of your company's agrochemical formulation production and major formulation types? Could you highlight the innovation formulation technology and its advantages and application situation?
FMC Corporation has production capabilities present in all major geographies and manufactures several types of formulations. Our work on the development of new innovative solutions in formulation technology is driven by customer needs together with current and future regulatory requirements. FMC is continuing to expand its product pipeline with innovative formulations, including water-dispersible granules (WG), Oil dispersions (OD) and Fertilizer ready formulations (LFR technology).
WG formulations are valued for being non-dusty which reduces inhalation hazards, high-loading of active ingredient is possible and there is no crystal growth or sedimentation. WG formulations are good for use in drone applications because they overcome solubility and some AI stability issues associated with some liquids. Additionally, they use less water and can use higher strength formulations. Some specific FMC WG products include ALTACOR® insect control, Avaunt® 30WG insecticide, Authority® Maxx herbicide and Rustler® selective herbicide.
OD formulations are in demand for their ability to formulate hydrolytically unstable active ingredients as liquid formulations, and their built-in adjuvant ability that improves efficacy by enhancing spray retention and active ingredient penetration. Some specific FMC OD products include Benevia® insecticide, Travallas® herbicide, Omnera® LQM® herbicide and Sentrallas® herbicide.
LFR technology formulations benefit from FMC's patented Liquid Fertilizer Ready® formulation technology that allows it to combine easily in the tank with liquid fertilizers. LFR technologies are optimal for in-furrow soil applications to reduce insect injury, lower potential disease entry sites and improve overall plant health for maximum yield potential. A key FMC LFR product includes Capture® LFR® insecticide. FMC offers a patented 3RIVE 3D® application technology for in-furrow use that integrates formulation technology, application technology and active ingredients to help growers farm faster while using less water, fuel and labor.
FMC also offers PrecisionPac® application innovation to allow retail agronomists to create custom herbicide blends unique to individual growers and their crops or fields.
Q2. Could you introduce the challenges for formulation engineering technology and corresponding solutions?
With the introduction of novel technologies and the development of multiple formulation types, formulation engineers are challenged with different scalability and manufacturing processes while delivering products with consistent and satisfactory performance specifications. Additionally, market demand for products may unexpectedly change and manufacturing processes and systems must be able to efficiently respond. These challenges must be addressed with innovative approaches that allow for minimum waste and rework materials. Various engineering solutions have been developed to address a range of conditions which may change during manufacturing of agrochemical products, including blending (liquid or dry), milling (wet and dry), granulation, extrusion, encapsulation and many other processes. It is also important to address potential challenges raised from the changes in active ingredient manufacturing processes and variations in the quality of co-formulants.
At FMC, some of these engineering solutions include unique in-house developed encapsulation and milling technologies, process intensification to increase capacity and reduce costs, in-line formulation parameter measurements and the design and utilization of multi-purpose facilities that are highly productive with a fast turnaround.
Q3. Could you share some new technologies for formulation engineering like Modelling & Simulation, 3D rendering & Virtual reality etc, and their application situations?
At FMC, we leverage several modelling and virtual technologies that play a substantial role in the development of agriculture chemical products. We apply these novel approaches in every aspect of product discovery and development. In engineering, we use tools that enhance the robustness and efficiency of engineering solutions during the development of the scale up and commercial manufacturing processes. 3D rendering is used to aid engineers in manufacturing plant design. Advanced modelling and simulation tools are used in process optimizations such as mixing, granulation and cycle time analysis. These tools provide valuable information which help formulation engineers to examine the flexibility in chemical process design and identify potential solutions for the troubleshooting of manufacturing processes.
Q4. Could you talk about the development of automation control and artificial intelligence in formulation engineering?
At FMC, automation control and artificial intelligence are areas of growth in formulation development and engineering. In scale-up and manufacturing, the use of fully automated production and packaging lines with advanced sensors and AI to control and optimize processes is growing. For example, the precision dosing of ingredients at registered levels is required for a GMP-level certificate of manufacturing.
FMC has several examples of automation control and AI in place. In our application technology teams, a focus on automation control has led to breakthroughs such as our 3RIVE 3D® “foam” application, PrecisionPac®, and numerous other advances underway in the precision agriculture arena.
Q5. Could you share some changes in your target markets in market requirements, regulation & policy and application technologies? What improvements/adjustments have been made in the formulation development and production to address these changes?
Regulatory challenges vary from country to country and can require significant customization and time investment for reviews and registrations. Some examples include regulatory-driven replacement of inert ingredients and limiting use of active ingredients. A recent example is the European Chemical Agency's proposal to limit the use of certain microplastics which will impact seed treatment and microencapsulated formulations. FMC is actively researching new and more sustainable alternatives to the use of microplastics in formulations while concurrently exploring novel engineering solutions to accelerate commercialization.
Another important trend is sustainability which includes conservation of energy, water and the reduction of emissions as well as the overall environmental footprint. To help address this trend, FMC introduced 3RIVE 3D® application technology to more efficiently apply products and reduce the usage of time, labor and water. In North America, Capture® 3RIVE 3D® insecticide and Ethos® 3D insecticide/fungicide were formulated to deliver crop protection for seeding defense and yield enhancement. These two product offerings were specifically designed for use in the 3RIVE 3D® application system which was recognized with a 2018 Agrow Award.
The use of biologicals as pesticides or biostimulants is another area that FMC continues to invest in to bring new products to the marketplace. FMC is looking at ways that biological technologies and associated formulations can differentiate products as well as improve the sustainability of the portfolio. The formulation of these biologicals requires the additional challenges of maintaining the health of the biological during processing and storage. FMC recently added new fermentation capability to enable us to produce more quantities of biologicals at our European Innovation Center at Denmark and we are exploring ways to leverage these learnings at other sites.
This interview was initially published in AgroPages '2020 Formulation & Adjuvant Technology' magazine. Download it to read more articles.
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