Editor’s note: A plant biostimulant is any substance or microorganism applied to plants to enhance nutritional efficiency, abiotic stress tolerance, and/or crop quality traits, regardless of its nutrient content. The biostimulant industry experienced dramatic change in 2022, including increasing concerns over the impact of climate change on crop production, breaking news involving several mergers and acquisitions among multinationals and biostimulant and novel fertilizer companies, and the official implementation of the new EU 2019/1009 regulation. Biolchim, as one of the leading biostimulant companies in the world, faces critical situations and uncertainty, but it still adapts and reacts quickly to the changing scenario. AgroPages interviewed Dr. Anna Fontana, Product Manager at Biolchim, who provided answers to the topics mentioned.
Dr. Anna Fontana
Product Manager at Biolchim
Please describe the global presence of Biolchim in 2022?
Biolchim is present in more than 80 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania. It has its own historical and newer subsidiaries in Brazil, Germany, Poland, Hungary, China, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Canada and Colombia, while in Turkey, Lebanon and India, it holds representative offices to maintain close collaborations with its local distributors. In all other countries, the company operates through commercial partnerships with a widespread network of distributors and importers.
Despite the critical geopolitical situation that started in early 2022 and the consequent economic uncertainty, the company has continued to grow, due to the considerable capacity of all members of the organization to collaborate, adapt and react quickly to the changing scenario.
Biolchim recently launched Vhera and beneficial microorganisms (rhizobiome) products. Microbes were a hot issue recently; how can microorganisms be used to achieve the best returns?
The recently launched microbial product in our portfolio, Vhera, is a specialty that enriches the soil microbiome, making the root area an optimal environment for the development of the root system and beneficial microbes. In order to develop properly, microbes have to find organic substances in the soil that can be rapidly utilized for their growth. For this purpose, Biolchim developed Vhera Life, a pre-biotic that delivers all necessary substances and nutrients necessary to the microbiome while favoring the growth and development of new roots. Applied in combination with Vhera, Vhera Life improves the soil ecosystem and root vigor, ensuring the maintenance of the plant’s productivity, especially in adverse environmental conditions.
Products based on microorganisms are receiving increasing attention among growers because of their flexibility, adaptability to diverse crops and environments, and the absence of undesired effects. Vhera, for example, can be applied during the entire crop cycle, both alone or integrated within a strategy with standard agronomic practices in organic and conventional agriculture.
When facing the changes to global conditions, what other new products are in your innovation pipeline?
In our product development pipeline, we constantly work to screen, characterize and select new raw materials with biostimulant activity, such as the ones derived from plant extracts, as well as to improve and upgrade existing products. New solutions are also developed and tested under field conditions, due to our global network of collaborations with universities, research centers, field test facilities and partners that are part of the Worldwide Innovation Network (WIN) project. All these activities generate a vast pool of data and information that enables us to provide solutions for emerging or growing market requirements, such as the demand for organic products or for crops challenged by changing climatic conditions.
Over the past two years, we have faced the lack of nature gas, a food crisis and the issue of carbon agriculture, what are the Biolchim’s actions and contributions in the areas of business and environmental protection?
The principle of environmental protection is very important to Biolchim. The company has implemented a certified environmental management system to guarantee the correct management of all environmental factors linked to the production processes. Moreover, Biolchim aims to foster increasingly sustainable agriculture by offering a large portfolio of products for organic farming, including nutritional products and specialties based on organic renewable resources.
Biolchim and other many companies are acting to control key raw materials like seaweed and humic. However, different sources perform differently, so what is the most important factor for formulating biostimulants, to prioritize research on clear product works mechanism of different sources or field performance testing?
To develop specialties that achieve excellent agronomic results, you need to start with excellent components, as high-quality raw materials are essential to formulating top performing products. Biolchim controls the acquisition of key raw materials and technologies for its biostimulant products, to ensure optimal and constant quality. The agronomic effectiveness of a formulated product is then thoroughly assessed during field trials under various realistic agronomic conditions, guaranteeing best product performance.
As the founding member of EBIC, Biolchim has experienced a lot, from a start of the process until the current time when biostimulants have been recognized by European law. Could you share your experiences, the difficulties faced and your insights with companies in other regions or countries who are countering biostimulant regulations?
EBIC has been active for over 10 years and is still working actively, which shows that implementing a working legislation regulating biostimulants is a massive endeavor. This is due to the high technical level of the products involved, the variety of their components, the large array of applications, as well as the complexity of the European regulatory environment. Biostimulant producers who know the products and their application gave and are still giving a very important contribution to this process. There is a willingness among stakeholders and regulators to interact constructively, so getting involved is the way to have the voice of the industry heard.
What is the impact of the EU Fertilizing Products Regulation (EU 2019/1009 regulation, below the new regulation) on the biostimulant industry?
The new regulation includes, for the first time, the categories of biostimulants, organic and organo-mineral fertilizers, which can be now introduced as EC fertilizers in the single European market. This is an opportunity for manufacturers who can market these product categories in all EU countries without undergoing local registrations. Also, the regulation introduces strict safety and environmental provisions, which are meant to improve consumer and environment protection but can require significant investment from producers.
What are the market prospects for biostimulants in different market regions? The Americas, both north and south, is a big market and the shift from conventional to bio-agriculture is evident. What are your views on emerging markets like the Asian market, especially the booming Chinese market? What is your development plan for the Chinese market?
For many years, China has been a very attractive country due to its size and potential. In fact, Biolchim entered the country with its own subsidiary in 2015, and it is now recognized as a leading player in the biostimulant and specialty fertilizer industry for the efficacy and innovative traits of its products. Biolchim also supports farmers by providing constant technical assistance. Agronomists in the field help farmers apply products in the appropriate manner, to obtain maximum results in terms of agronomical performances. This is particularly important in a very large country like China, where crops are cultivated across different climatic and agronomic conditions, making it necessary to adapt product use guidelines for each zone. In the near future, we want to stay close to the market with our team to support growers on product use.
In North America, as well as other regions, consumer demand for organically produced food is an incentive for farmers to shift from conventional to organic farming and choose organic certified products. This represents an opportunity for the market for organic-certified specialty fertilizers and biostimulants, including several in Biolchim’s portfolio.
This article was initially published in AgroPages 'Annual Review 2022' magazine.