How collaboration and OpenAg have placed bio-technologies at the heart of UPL’s global mission
Jun. 18, 2021
"Our BioSolutions are a toolbox that allows UPL to keep exploring new ways of improving our offer for food, farms and farmers, and we have endeavoured to increase overall access to these transformative tools across every country in which we operate,” said Mr. Fabio Torretta, Global Head of Sustainable Solutions at UPL Ltd in a recent interview with AgroPages.
He also shared his views on UPL’s BioSolutions, OpenAg purpose, ProNutiva program and its application/promotion situation, the best way to use biologicals, the challenge of biological formulation development, as well as future development plans of UPL in this areas etc.
Mr. Fabio Torretta
Global Head of Sustainable Solutions at UPL Ltd
Please introduce UPL’s BioSolutions and relevant product lines and special features. What are the strategies of product development and integration? Is there any plan to integrate/launch new biological products?
UPL has spent years developing a range of highly effective BioSolutions products creating a portfolio which is targeted to address our farmers pain points and addresses the physiological requirements at every stage of the plant lifecycle, focusing in soil and seed health, plant stress and stimulation, plant nutrition and residue management.
One of the examples we’re most proud of is VACCIPLANT® which we are making available to more farmers around the world. Vacciplant is a preventative treatment and plant defence stimulant – which uses active biological compounds to stimulate food and non-food crops’ natural defence mechanisms, boosting disease prevention, plant health and yields. Vacciplant improves conventional spray performance using both SAR (systemic acquired resistance) and ISR (induced systemic resistance) modes of action to stimulate the salicylic and jasmonic acid pathways, and it can be used in rotation as part of a resistance management program.
Through our ProNutiva programs, UPL has pioneered the combination of traditional crop protection and BioSolutions, in order to deliver sustainable solutions for growers.
Our BioSolutions are a toolbox that allows UPL to keep exploring new ways of improving our offer for food, farms and farmers, and we have endeavoured to increase overall access to these transformative tools across every country in which we operate.
Could you highlight UPL’s ProNutiva program and its application/promotion situation worldwide?
ProNutiva is one of the most innovative service and distribution approaches within UPL’s global operations. ProNutiva integrates BioSolutions (biocontrol, biostimulants and innovative nutrition) with conventional crop protection products in an exclusive crop health program that meets the real-world needs of today’s growers and food chains.
The result is improved management of resistance and residues, enhanced overall crop protection, and delivery of higher yields and better quality to ensure enhanced farm economies and sustainable food supply. ProNutiva embodies the UPL mission to make every single food product more sustainable. For us, the combination of BioSolutions with conventional plant protection products is the optimum way forward, as it answers the latest challenges in agriculture by supporting sustainable food security and agricultural practices, improving grower economics and meeting evolving food chain requirements.
ProNutiva program in Poland for apples led to a 15% average yield increase, +34% average russet improvement, +13.5% average color improvement, and a -25% average revenue reduction. But ProNutiva is not limited to speciality crops or fruits. We have worked hard to demonstrate that this approach works at scale, for row crops and most importantly – given the demand for nutrition and energy-rich foods to meet the needs of a growing global population – across legumes too. Our ProNutiva program working with soy beans in Brazil led to a 3.40 sc/ha increase.
How can biological products be used to give the best returns, for instance, right climatic conditions, equipment or technology support, or any other specific requirement for use of these products?
Adding a biosolution product into an already established biological system in a way that it is successful, is always going to be dependent on an array of critical conditions, from soil structure, to plant architecture. The biological system is dependent on providing the right conditions for optimal growth, yet in todays climate emergency, many of these essential conditions are not being met and as a results the biological system becomes challenged to a point that it is not resilient to the changes being made upon it. This is where UPL has been active with biological products and supporting technologies of these products such as Zeba ensuring not only application but the environment they enter are complimentary to successful introduction. Zeba has an ability to impact on the core mechanics of a crop system directly with the soil, where it has proven to increase both water and nutrient use efficiency whilst presenting the conditions in support of a functional microbial biomass. This not only increases crop production and qualities but helps to produce nutrient dense food with positive soil health and environmental standards. This technology is helping growers balance the input-to-yield ratio for greater profitability, whilst reducing the wastage of water and the subsequent environmental impact of water contaminants from excesses leaching along with these waters. But in addition, Zeba is increasing crop potential due to its incredible attributes, and when this occurs it is incumbent on the system as a whole, to support this potential. UPL in having an extensive biological soil health portfolio extends the crops capabilities by supporting the performance of the whole cropping system whilst protecting our essential resources and environment.
What's the challenge of biological formulation? What's the biggest difference from other agri-inputs like traditional pesticides? What do you think of the role of adjuvants in biological development?
Practically speaking, the challenges for biological formulations are diverse and often different from agrochemical formulations. For example, the limited shelf life for some classes of biologicals, including microbes, restrains wide introduction in agricultural markets and limits the ease of use. Many biological compounds face quick degradation and this needs to be addressed by specific stabilizing formulations. Adjuvants can also be a part of the solution if used adequately and can help to improve performance of biological products
From a farmer perspective we cannot ignore the inherent comparison of current BioSolutions to the efficacy and ease of use of traditional products. It is essential that correct training and education is provided to farmers on how to use BioSolutions in an integrated approach. UPL has specific farmer training programs to impart knowledge in the rapidly changing industry.
In your professional opinion, what kind of biological products do you think are the most promising? What do you feel could be the next breakthrough innovation in BioSolutions?
UPL is actively partnering with scientists and entrepreneurs who can help transform our food system to meet both the productivity and profitability needs of growers, while promoting sustainable and environmentally sound agricultural practices for the good of our planet. To achieve this, we are innovating at every stage of the food and Agri value chain. Key to that innovation is collaboration, a key element of our OpenAg purpose.
In support of our OpenAg purpose, we have launched the first-ever purpose driven, globally facing R&D Hub: the OpenAg Center located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where we are working with innovative entrepreneurs and partners to rapidly onboard and evaluate new technologies.
Through this type of collaboration, we believe we can accelerate innovation and transformation. We believe that UPL is uniquely positioned to bring innovative technologies throughout the food chain.
One recent example is the launch of the Fawligen™ product, the first ever biological tool designed explicitly to target the destructive Fall Army Worm, which UPL has developed with partners and is now offering to farmers across the African continent. Fawligen shows the power of collaboration and evidences the strength of the OpenAg approach.
Alongside our work with partners, breakthroughs are also being delivered entirely through in-house innovation at UPL. We have recently launched a new post-harvest solution called Argos® – a new natural potato sprout suppressant to prevent and control sprouting on potato tubers in storage developed by UPL. Argos is a post-harvest BioSolution derived from an essential oil and is used in warehouse fumigation to manage sprouting.
What do you think of the market prospects of biologicals in different market regions? Americas (North & South) are a big market and the shift from conventional to Bio-Agriculture is evident. What about the Asian market, especially the booming Chinese market?
People in every part of the world are looking for more sustainable solutions for the earth and healthier food for themselves, and we expect this to be a market shaping trend for many years.
It has been clear for several years that the green agriculture movement is primarily being led by Europe, both in their appetite for biological treatments and in their agenda setting role as a major food import market. From the European Green Deal to the Farm to Fork strategy, the trading block is setting the agenda for regional agricultural practices and the standards demanded from imports from the USA, Africa and the Middle East. The complex regulatory environment and long line for registrations will unfortunately limit the growth of BioControl products in EU in the coming years.
In Latin America, UPL has a leading position of BioSolutions in multiple countries including Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Chile. Appetite here is growing, and we see great potential for our BioSolutions line to grow exponentially in the next ten years with launch and penetration of several products like Biozyme®, Biotron plus®, Vacciplant and K-fol®.
Many key countries including China are focusing on sustainability driven by environmentally responsible & efficient use of all sources to manufacture traditional inputs. However, we plan on strengthening our presence in the Chinese market, and increasing access to, and adoption of, biological alternatives to traditional crop protection products. In China, UPL has already introduced seaweed based BioStimulant portfolios in the 3H crop region- one of the nine principal agricultural zones in China - and is ready to put forward a series of high efficiency BioControl products in the immediate future.
In 2020, two large multinational agrochemical companies AMVAC and Syngenta Group announced the acquisitions of Agrinos and Valagro respectively. The mainstream view is that the prelude of the large-scale acquisitions of biological companies has started, and the biologicals segment will usher in a new round of development. What’s your view? What is the development plan of UPL in this area?
Growth in zero residue production and organics directly leads to an increase of consumption of biologicals and the need for precision agriculture. We expect the entire spectrum of application from seed treatment and soil health to post harvest will be covered with multiple biological options in the coming years, with the larger trends of consolidation, collaboration, and joint ventures continuing as well.
We are dedicated to breaking new ground in agricultural innovation and increasing collaboration between players across the food system in order to meet the ever-growing challenges facing the sector. In the last 50 years, we have grown both organically and through carefully considered acquisitions, the most significant of which has been the acquisition of Arysta LifeScience in 2019, bringing to UPL a strong and complementary portfolio of BioSolutions. This was more than an opportunity for growth, but a statement of intent for our belief in the role of a major agribusiness now and in the future. Far beyond emerging as a top 5 agricultural solutions company worldwide, the merger drove a new purpose for UPL, based around collaboration. Through our OpenAg purpose we connect with partners, making sure that latest innovations from are made available to farmers around the world, solving key pain points of growers.
One recent example is the partnership with Novozymes in February 2021aiming to offer a complete range of BioSolutions and crop protection products to the Argentinian market. This partnership will provide greater access to technology for farmers and will help them achieve improved yields in a sustainable manner. Collaboration has played an indispensable role in developing our portfolio, and the OpenAg model will continue to guide our future projects and products.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr. Fabio Torretta serves as the Global Head of Sustainable Solutions at UPL Ltd, a major crop protection company that is a leader in global food systems. Fabio is an agronomist and a specialist in marketing and management from the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. A Sales & Marketing leader with 37 years of experience in Agribusiness industry including Crop Protection, Animal Nutrition and Fertilizer. Fabio led business in Southern Africa, LATAM and Brazil as Regional Business Head- UPL. Prior to working with UPL, Fabio has managed leadership roles in Sales and Marketing with companies in Agri-inputs industry like Socil Evialis Animal Nutrition and Fersol Ind. E Comercio S/A.
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