Over the last decade, biological products have become one of the fastest growing segments in the agriculture industry. However, the overall development still faces many limitations, such as expensive production methods, poor storage stability, susceptibility to environmental conditions and efficacy problems.
As a key player in the biological industry, Rovensa Next aggregates 10 Rovensa Group companies and creates a holistic platform of biosolutions to shape a sustainable future for agriculture and drive its biotransformation. In view of this, AgroPages recently interviewed several experts of Rovensa Next. In the interview, they shared their views on the some innovation technologies, bioformulations based on different scenarios, bioformulation development strategies, as well as the the EU Fertilizing Products Regulation etc.
Could you share some innovation technologies in the bioformulation R&D, production and application? What are the challenges and countermeasures during above process?
Sara Monteiro, Head of R&D Biocontrol & Adjuvants of Rovensa Next explains: The definition of ″Bioformulation″ is a difficult concept, that can be linked to the final purpose of the product to be used in organic agriculture or by a company internal strategy. Either way, bioformulation can be defined as a ready-to-use formulation, containing natural products, like living cells, their metabolites, or other natural sourced active ingredients, supported by inert compounds to maintain the viability and efficiency of the active or effective ingredients and to increase their shelf life in the bottle. Biocides, UV protectants, antioxidants, dispersants, and all these supporting compounds that will be the carriers and the formulation stabilizers also need to be sourced from natural origin. More than that, they need to be safe!
When working with natural ingredients, a potential concern is the reproducibility of the composition (chemical composition, purity, nature of the potential contamination). To avoid it, a specific attention needs to be done on the quality assessment and analytical method development. Sometimes, purification processes, standardization and validation are required on each ingredient prior to formulation. Another difficulty with natural ingredients is their diversity and complexity. For example, a nonionic surfactant, such as an ethoxylated fatty alcohol, based on synthetic or natural origin will have a completely different number of molecules. With a natural origin, the lipophilic tail can give largely tens of different possibilities, the identification of each component by a simple and accessible method could be a nightmare when compared with a less complex molecule if it is originated from a synthetic source.
In bioformulations development, Rovensa Next has become a pioneer in essential oils adjuvant technology. A now highly sought after technology which delivers nano lipids of essential oils. A proper selection of surfactant and oil ratio have shown to be key for their effectiveness and stability and makes us one of the key players in this market.
José Nolasco, Head of R&D Bionutrition of Rovensa Next adds: The biostimulants are frequently from natural origins, but also it had to be taken into consideration they are a multicomponent product that can offer innumerous synergistic effects. It is mandatory to understand their mode of action by studying their effect in three levels: 1) phenotyping – what is happening? 2) metabolomics and 3) transcriptomics – how is it happening? It is extremely important to understand not only what the product is composed of, but what is the effect expected when applied to plants.
Nowadays there is a major trend and space for innovation in the products based on living microbials and their fermented extracts. This new research line leads to products with a great efficiency in the use of very low doses (less than 200 mL/ha), and to understand how they work and the best agronomical positioning is key – hence the need to study deeper their effect with the ″omics″ and not only the phenotypical effect.
Share some successful cases to develop bioformulations based on different scenarios and market needs. Such as how your company is improving stability and synergist for bioformulations.
In this regard, Sara Monteiro, Head of R&D Biocontrol & Adjuvants of Rovensa Next explains: At Rovensa Next one of the golden targets for our bioformulations development, is to source the raw materials, both the actives and the carriers, from agro-industries by-products or food waste. Both are renewable sources of natural ingredient and by using them we will be in a virtuous circle. From field to field. However, we needed to implement a rigours R&D process to manage the questions of the stability and the variability of the raw materials. The orange oil, cold pressed extracted from the orange peels and tomato processing waste are good examples. Tomato pomace is a very unstable material, with a high quantity of water, fibres, and sugar. The right mix for a quick microbial degradation. But the tomato skin, that is very lipophilic, and easy to isolate from tomato pomace, is finally very stable with a strong potential to be used. It’s, in the end, a good material for valorisation, just need to be fitted into the right final bioproduct!
In the ″tank-mix″ adjuvants market, Rovensa Next recently developed a tank mix biosolution stable in high electrolyte fertilizer mixtures for the increase of soil wetting, distribution, and overall improvement of the soil profile.
José Nolasco, Head of R&D Bionutrition of Rovensa Next adds: Another important successful case was the development, registration and launch of Biimore worldwide. It was a product developed in our laboratories in Brazil for the soybean market, coming from a renewable and sustainable food-source. The process was fully documented within the metabolomics analysis – that detected more than 200 primary and secondary compounds on the product – and the formulation is fully controlled to send the product to several countries. It has been used across a variety of over 25 strategic crops and different geographical areas in more than 180 agronomic trials, which have demonstrated the high efficacy of Biimore at ultra-low doses applied at fruit swell and development stage, increasing yield and fruit weight and improving other quality parameters such as size, sugar content and shelf-life. It became one of the first biostimulants to be registered under the new EU Fertilizing Product Regulations for all the group of crops.
The link between R&D work and the Local Development Teams is very important in this type of project, to understand the market needs. The use of a platform of Knowledge Management is also key to save properly the massive information, to finally describe agronomical positioning and registration.
What are the bioformulation development strategies in response to evolving changes over the market requirements, regulation & policy and application technologies?
Jorge Aguilar, Director of Global Marketing Strategy & Portfolio affirms: At Rovensa Next, customers are the core of our strategy and our value proposition is based on how we can best cater for our stakeholders’ needs. This is why grower and distributor requests are the driving force behind our biosolutions’ development process.
Growers are facing ever greater challenges. These are related to their crops, such as pest and disease management issues, nutritional disorders and the impact of abiotic stress, as well as other day-to-day problems, including work-life balance and profitability.
Rovensa Next aims to deliver a real value proposition to its stakeholders by proactively listening to them through our boot-on-the-ground advisors who understand their needs and add these insights to our in-house systems. Our team of experts also use market research data, evaluating new technologies to understand trends and then including these inputs in our solution development processes.
Once market needs have been identified, we focus on finding solutions that are relevant to the majority of growers and can help them overcome crop management challenges. These include improving yield and quality parameters, reducing losses, and boosting profitability, thus supporting the continuity and sustainability of their businesses.
Sara Monteiro, Head of R&D Biocontrol & Adjuvants of Rovensa Next introduces: In the bioformulation strategies, not only the selection of natural ingredient is key, also an eco-design of a safe product will drive our future development. The risk assessment and fate & behavior will need to be anticipated, at an earlier stage of development to accelerate the go-to-market with a safer proposal. At Rovensa Next our goal is to develop new biosolutions to face new demands from the field, users, and policies makers. Climate change, worker protection, society’s image of agriculture, new pest pressures, pesticide resistance management, loss of active ingredients, and the need to support biodiversity are challenges that growers are confronted with daily. Our best example of a bioformulation to mitigate this scenario is PREV-AM, our multipurpose biopesticide utilizing a proprietary blend of botanical compounds found in cold-pressed orange oil. PREV-AM provides broad-spectrum protection in open field and greenhouse conditions for both organic and conventional farming operations. It helps meet growers’ goals with an effective biopesticide exempt from MRL tolerances and greatly reduced worker and environment safety concerns compared to conventional chemical pesticides. In addition, Rovensa Next now has a broad portfolio and R&D pipeline to provide a very complete toolbox for the growers. Our proposal is to deliver less harsh chemistry and BioSolutions that can be incorporated into the growers’ organic AND conventional programs to address their current societal, environmental, and technological trends and needs.
José Nolasco, Head of R&D Bionutrition of Rovensa Next adds: To work with Biostimulants it is crucial to have a standardized procedure to control their formulation and to have a clear agronomical positioning for its use. Biostimulants must be used, according to their mode of action, type of stress and/or phenological phase of the crops. The work together with Local Development teams and the growers will help to conquer the directions to the positive use of these products, such as to identify clear dose and application time for every new product; to provide technical training and technical support to the sales team, distributors, and end users; and to perform demo field trials in local conditions.
How do you see the value of adjuvant in bioformulation innovation? Criteria for selecting adjuvants?
Sara Monteiro, Head of R&D Biocontrol & Adjuvants of Rovensa Next explains: Regarding to adjuvants, that can be used as ″tank-mix″ adjuvants or as co-adjuvants in a bioformulation, to increase wettability, leaf adhesion or penetration of the active ingredient, our choice goes often towards the sugar-based products. Not only to APGs, that are attractive for certain properties, but also for bio-based products, that are obtained without any chemical reactions or modifications. The offer for these alternatives was very limited some years ago, but we see more and more suppliers with a larger portfolio of BioSolutions. However, if the aim is to use the adjuvants with living cells, a specific attention needs to be done on their toxicity. A preliminary toxicity screening test is mandatory to be conducted individually with each adjuvant prior to design the final bioformulation. Even if the surfactant is very attractive, very ″green″, if it could be dangerous for the active, it will need to be removed from the selection.
In summary, mixing the correct adjuvant chemistry is crucial for both efficacy and avoiding antagonism. The newly developed prototypes need to be demonstrated through vast laboratory and field studies and is key to understand the chemistry intended for tank mixing.
How do you see the impact of the EU Fertilizing Products Regulation to the biostimulant development and biostimulant industry worldwide?
José Nolasco, Head of R&D Bionutrition of Rovensa Next highlights: EU Fertilizing Product Regulation plays a crucial role for the future of the biostimulant market and to ensure biostimulant technologies as an integral part of sustainable agriculture, while securing a favorable regulatory framework for biosolutions.
The new regulation includes for the first time biostimulant as a new category, which can be get an EC mark for the whole European market. This is a unique opportunity to expand and market Biostimulant solutions faster than in the past that had to be through national regulations.
There are trends that will continue after the new regulation is in place, such as a growing global biostimulant market and an emphasis on innovation within the industry. In this sense the new fertilizing regulation will play a fundamental role to set a harmonized regulatory framework at UE level. The challenge will be to work to address these trends from a regulatory perspective as well. For example, there is an increasing interest in the use of microorganisms to promote soil health and sustainable agriculture. As this is uncharted territory, it is very important to set up a clear mechanism and establish guidelines on a feasible data requirement for adding new micro-organisms in the regulations to encourage innovation.
This interview will be published in AgroPages '2023 Formulation & Adjuvant Technology ' magazine to be published this May.
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