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Clariant: Driving Innovation and Sustainability in Crop Solutions, Implementing ″In China, for China″ Strategyqrcode

−− Exclusive Interview with Uwe Dahlmann, Clariant’s Global Head of Crop Solutions, Vice President, BU Care Chemicals

May. 23, 2024

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May. 23, 2024


Editor’s note: At the 24th China International Agrochemical & Crop Protection Exhibition (CAC 2024), Uwe Dahlmann, Clariant’s Global Head of Crop Solutions, Vice President, BU Care Chemicals, spoke with AgroPages about how Clariant is addressing technical challenges with environmentally friendly, efficient, and high-quality products in order to contribute to the sustainable advancement of the agrochemical industry. Uwe reiterated Clariant’s confidence in the Chinese market and reaffirmed its commitment to the "In China, for China" business strategy.

Looking ahead, Clariant remains dedicated to developing innovative products and solutions for conventional pesticide and precision application, biological control, and soil and plant health initiatives – all aimed at promoting the sustainable evolution of global agriculture. Clariant also plans to ramp up investments in emerging technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI), and to foster an innovation-driven business model that addresses global challenges like population growth and climate change.


Uwe Dahlmann, Clariant’s Global Head of Crop Solutions, Vice President, BU Care Chemicals

AgroPages: Can you please briefly introduce Clariant and its business philosophy?

Headquartered in Muttenz, Switzerland, Clariant is a specialty chemical company with a strong focus on innovation and sustainability. We have 29 years of operational expertise in the specialty chemicals sector, as well as over 100 years of experience through the legacy from Hoechst AG and Sandoz AG, the specialty chemical branches of both companies that formed Clariant in the 1990s. 

Clariant’s business portfolio spans care chemicals, catalysts, adsorbents, and additives. The Care Chemicals BU focuses on highly attractive, low-cyclicality market segments with a large share of consumer-facing businesses. The unit consists of Crop Solutions, Personal & Home Care, Industrial Application and Base Chemicals, Oil Services, and Mining Solutions, representing about 50% of Clariant’s total sales, which amounts to approximately CHF 2.3 billion. Clariant’s Catalysts BU includes the Propylene, Specialties (i.e., ammonia), Syngas & Fuels, and Ethylene business segments, each of which contributes to the value creation of their customers’ chemical processes. The Adsorbents & Additives BU focuses on plastics, coatings and adhesives, the E-mobility and electronics market, and adsorbents for foundry, purification, and desiccant applications.

In line with our purpose of "Greater chemistry – between people and planet", Clariant prioritizes our customers’ needs so that we can deliver innovative, sustainable solutions of the highest quality. Recognizing the pivotal role of innovation and customization to meet customer needs, Clariant emphasizes the importance of delivering tailored solutions rather than standardized products. Finally, Clariant also cultivates a corporate culture that nurtures employees and communities, fostering inclusive growth in a supportive environment.

AgroPages: Can you tell us about Clariant’s development in the Chinese market? What has Clariant done in terms of localization? What do you think of the development opportunities in the Chinese agrochemical market?

Clariant has been actively engaged in the Chinese market for many years. In 2009, Clariant established its first ethylene oxide derivative plant in Daya Bay, Huizhou, Guangdong, marking a significant milestone that has propelled our business expansion within the Chinese market. Since then, Clariant has consistently invested more than CHF 300 million in China. Our latest endeavor aims to further fortify Clariant's industrial footprint and involves an CHF 80 million expansion of Daya Bay scheduled to commence operations in early 2025. In addition to new manufacturing plants, Clariant is investing in local innovation facilities. This includes a CHF 45 million investment in the One Clariant Campus (OCC) which hosts Clariant’s Innovation Center China for strengthen our research and development capacities.

With our localization strategy of "In China, for China", Clariant is steadfast in delivering innovative solutions tailored to meet the needs of our Chinese clientele. As a testament to this commitment, Clariant has established regional headquarters, technical application centers, robust organizational structures, and facilities to further train highly proficient personnel within the country. Clariant is confident in China's esteemed education system and highly skilled workforce and, currently, Clariant has nearly 1,000 employees in China. Approximately 350 of these employees are dedicated solely to research and development initiatives.

The Chinese specialty chemicals market is continuously bearing new business opportunities and is a steady source of growth. More in particular, the Crop Protection market is marked by the increased adoption of genetically modified (GMO) crops. Clariant intends to tap into these opportunities through market expansion of its strong herbicide adjuvant portfolio for glyphosate, glufosinate, dicamba, 2-4 D, and active combinations of these chemicals. 

Clariant is also developing solutions to help its customers meet increasing regulations, such as nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) restrictions that require reformulations and / or replacements of existing co-formulants. In response to goals set by Chinese authorities, we are also collaborating with our customers to increase the sustainability within the crop protection industry. We expect that reduced carbon footprints will be a key factor for China-based agrochemical companies competing in global markets.

To sum up, Clariant’s dedication to its endeavors in the Chinese market is shown by our localized operations, local management and talent development, and customer-focused innovation. Clariant strives to serve Chinese customers with reliable, high-quality products and innovative solutions, while also contributing to the sustainable development of Chinese agriculture.

AgroPages: What innovative solutions has Clariant brought to CAC 2024? Can you highlight these products and their advantages?

As a global leader in specialty chemicals, Clariant has devoted extensive resources to research and innovation. This has resulted in a variety of sustainable solutions, such as adjuvants and co-formulants (e.g., emulsifiers, wetting and dispersing agents, utility modifiers, and green solvents). Clariant’s full range of co-formulants enhances the performance of our customers’ crop protection products in a sustainable manner by maximizing the full performance capacity of the active components, thus raising harvest yields per acre, and promoting plant health.

At CAC 2024, Clariant unveiled a series of high-performing and environmentally friendly crop solutions including the Sapogenat™ T range of NPE alternatives, the Synergen® product series of powerful low-foaming adjuvants for (L)-glufosinate, and Dispersogen® C 4020, a modified polycarboxylate that functions as anionic dispersing agent. 



The Sapogenat™ T range of powerful low-foaming moisturizing solutions were featured at CAC as NPE alternatives


Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are widely used in the crop protection market because of their favorable performance profile, but their use is increasingly restricted because of their assumed endocrine disruption properties. Clariant’s Sapogenat™ T range is among the best alternatives available in the market to replace NPE-based non-ionic emulsifiers. This product offers equal variability and compatibility through its wide ethoxylation spectrum, excellent emulsification, and wetting power to increase pesticide efficacy in foliar applications. 


(L)-Glufosinate reveals its full capacity as an environmentally friendly herbicide when used in combination with the Synergen® range of powerful low-foaming adjuvants solutions

(L)-Glufosinate is a highly active broad-spectrum contact herbicide with low toxicity and good environmental compatibility. To depress its high foaming tendency and boost its performance as a single and, also as combo-active, Clariant has released its new high-efficiency and low-foaming (L)-glufosinate adjuvants solutions: Synergen® GL, Synergen® B, Synergen® GA, and Synergen® GFM.

The Synergen® series offers low toxicity and environmental friendliness paired with strong wettability and good spreadability. It greatly enhances the permeability and field efficacy of (L)-glufosinate and ensures robust crop growth. 


Dispersogen® C 4020 significantly improves product stability and ease of use

Dispersogen® C 4020 is a modified polycarboxylate that functions as an anionic dispersant at dosage rates of 2% to 5%. It possesses strong dispersing properties that allow the development of highly loaded pesticides, seed treatment formulations, and fertilizer suspensions. Dispersogen C 4020 can significantly improve product stability and shelf life, while also reducing viscosity.

AgroPages: In terms of biologicals, soil health, and seed treatment, which have attracted attention within the industry in recent years, and does Clariant have any product solutions in these areas?

The need to increase both sustainability and weed pest resistance are driving the growth of biologicals for improved disease control. Generally, biologicals are differentiated into biocontrol and biostimulants. In response to the rise of biocontrol for bio-fungicides and bio-insecticides, Clariant has positioned itself as a provider of co-formulants for microbial formulations. Our upcoming launches will offer versatile auxiliaries and adjuvants that fulfill biocompatibility requirements and comply with relevant organic certifications. These products also possess robust performance substantiation for efficacy and longevity, which are key challenges of current biological practices.

The other notable trend is the emphasis on plant health, which is intricately linked to soil health. Clariant is exploiting potential synergistic benefits within its natural ingredient portfolio to develop novel biostimulants with well substantiated evidence of abiotic stress reduction and nutrient use efficiency. Moreover, Clariant is actively engaged in addressing soil health concerns by exploring various approaches to maintain soil moisture through higher water retention, enhanced water penetration, and infiltration into the soil profile without water percolation or pesticide leaching. 

We offer a range of seed coating solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of our customers. Using our innovative grafted co-polymer technology, our Crop Solutions unit has developed Dispersogen® PSL 100, an essential dispersant for stabilizing and compatibilizing water-insoluble pesticides for disease control with seeds. In addition, our Adsorbents & Additives unit offers specialized Tonnegel™ clays as rheology modifiers that can partially or fully replace sepiolites and gums as primary suspension additives. The Licocare® product line of renewable, microplastic-free waxes provides anti-caking and anti-dusting effects and enhances flowability and water resistance of seeds. When used for fruit and vegetable coatings, our waxes enhance the natural protection of these precious farm products and help prevent weight loss and spoilage.

AgroPages: Can you brief us about Clariant’s technical centers and capabilities? What are your automation and AI applications related to the process of product development?

Clariant's technical capabilities are bolstered by a global network of state-of-the-art innovation centers and technical application labs strategically positioned worldwide. In China alone, Clariant operates three research and development facilities, with our latest OCC facility in Shanghai serving as an innovation hub for Asia. These centers seamlessly integrate all our technology platforms to provide effective and comprehensive technical support to our customers. This includes chemical research, application testing, formulation optimization, and new product development driven by customization and regionalization. Our aim is to swiftly translate customer needs into tangible product innovations.

Outside of China, the Clariant Innovation Center (CIC) in Frankfurt, Germany, is the company’s key chemical research, innovation, and technology hub, and it connects our innovation communities in China, India, and the US. In addition, our specialized crop application development teams in China, Europe, the US, Brazil, and Indonesia (catering to the Southeast Asian market) support regional and local market development through global access to cutting-edge applications and technologies.

For example, at the CIC, Clariant leverages high-throughput experimentation and screening (HTE/HTS) to accelerate the development process, ensuring rapid delivery of results in today's dynamic markets. This is particularly applicable in Asia and in complex development challenges, like biologicals. High-throughput experimentation and screening enables us to seize opportunities swiftly and stay ahead of evolving market trends.

The integration of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) into our daily business processes heralds a transformative shift in the entire industry. Clariant recently launched Clarita, a cloud based GenAI platform capable of generating realistic content, including question answering, drafting of reports and emails, interpreting data, offering prescriptive guidance, and more.

Clarity™, Clariant’s fully digitalized service for AI-powered optimization of catalyst operation, is another example of an innovative tool for monitoring and analyzing complex data in real-time. This platform empowers customers with an intuitive, end-to-end encrypted data sharing tool that facilitates direct interaction with our online experts for technical exchanges, thereby enhancing collaboration and problem-solving.

While GenAI undoubtedly holds immense potential, I firmly believe that human creativity remains irreplaceable. While AI can learn, simplify, and translate huge and complex digital data volumes into transactional process tasks, it's human ingenuity that drives innovation and creative problem-solving. As we embrace GenAI's role in enhancing operational efficiency, we remain steadfast in our commitment to leveraging human expertise to drive meaningful and ethical advancements in our industry.

AgroPages: In recent years, people are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of agrochemicals. How will Clariant balance the relationship between agriculture and agrochemicals? What emerging technologies or trends affect the development of the pesticide industry?

Heightened awareness of the environmental impact of agrochemicals has underscored the need for the right balance between agricultural productivity and environmental stewardship. Clariant recognizes this dual responsibility and is committed to providing solutions that safeguard the environment while not compromising agricultural performance. Sustainability is a core element of our purpose and business strategy.

Clariant’s vision for agricultural sustainability stems from the need to improve crop input technologies. We believe that the future of crop solutions lies in the integration of precision agriculture techniques, which will minimize the risk of unintentional exposure to non-targeted areas. Continuous monitoring of pesticide applications is allowing the selective treatment of necessary areas only, which will optimize the overall pesticide usage application costs. Ongoing digitalization will further support real-time monitoring and decision-making in daily agricultural practices.

In response to the growing demand for ultra-low volume (ULV) aerial drone spraying, we have also recently launched Synergen DRT, the first adjuvant designed for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) application. This trend is particularly apparent in Asia, where the consolidation of arable land, changing farmer demographics, and rising labor costs will accelerate the broad use of UAV technologies, also in China. Compared to conventional applications, aerial drone use requires more concentrated spray solutions (5 to 30 L/ha) and Synergen DRT uses specialized formulation technology to improve the solubility, or suspensibility, of the active components. This enhances retention, coverage, and foliar uptake with low phytotoxicity risk. Clariant is already developing the second generation of Synergen DRT to keep pace with the rapidly evolving market dynamics and technological advancements.

At Clariant, we understand that our upstream position in the agrochemical value chain means that sustainability begins with us. We aim to significantly reduce the use of hazardous materials as co-formulants while simultaneously improving our customers’ crop protection products, and farmers crop yields so that they can meet the demands of a growing population. 

As discussed before, the use of biologicals, either as biocontrol actives or as biostimulants in plant and soil health applications, is an environmentally friendly trend within the agricultural sector. Biologicals have experienced rapid, double-digit growth recently and they are outperforming the overall conventional pesticide market at a plateaued growth of roughly 1%. Farmers are actively seeking alternative solutions not only in the context of organic farming and rising food awareness, but also to address the pressing issues of pest resistance and seasonal uncertainties due to extreme weather events.

As a member of the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI), Clariant is one of the largest providers of fully segregated bio-based nonionic surfactants (100% RCI) through its new Vita product range. In alignment with our own, science-based climate sustainability targets, Clariant is dedicated to transparently understanding the cradle-to-gate product carbon footprint (PCF) of its entire portfolio, for example by utilizing the innovative CliMate tool for PCF calculations. We are also supporting our customers in adhering to their Scope 3 greenhouse gas emission requirements.

Overall, Clariant is committed to innovative solutions that enhance agricultural productivity reducing environmental damage or harm to farmers or their communities. We will also advance digitalization and automation to provide superior technical solutions to our customers. Our goal is to collaborate with our customers to sustainably feed the growing global population while minimizing environmental impact. This commitment serves as a driving force behind our business strategy and underscores our responsibility to the agricultural sector and the environment.

AgroPages: Looking into the future of the development of agricultural solutions, what will be Clariant’s direction for technical innovation? How will these technical innovations help the industry meet agricultural challenges? 

By collaborating with top universities and external technology providers in the region, we are leveraging dynamic ideation and cutting-edge research capabilities with market and technology expertise to develop tailored solutions to the unique challenges of each market. For example, we have collaborations that started in Thailand in the UAV field that will allow us to refine and expand the technology to the Chinese market.

Environmental protection remains a top priority for Clariant, and we will focus our activities on safer co-formulants and adjuvants for our customers’ formulation toolbox. In response to regulatory changes, such as the impending EU ban on microplastics in fertilizers, plant protection products, and treated seeds, we are developing bio-based, biodegradable alternatives to eliminate the use of restricted polymers. Additionally, Clariant is offering Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified, sustainable palm oil-based raw materials for the manufacture of our solvent portfolio.

Clariant continues to innovate sustainable crop protection solutions with the launch of Genagen NBP. This high-performing green solvent is a best-in-class N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) replacement with a low-toxicity profile. Genagen NBP dissolves actives in high-loading fungicides, insecticides, and plant growth regulator (PGR) formulations. This product also shows a low volatility profile, and it is enhancing the deposit properties and bioavailability of foliar sprayed and acropetal injected applications. 

In pursuing our growth strategy, we remain open to both organic and inorganic opportunities. Our recent acquisition of Lucas Meyer Cosmetics, a Canadian high value active and functional cosmetic ingredients company, exemplifies our strategic approach to expanding our capabilities in innovative ingredients and natural solutions, and this acquisition might offer adjacent solutions for crop applications as well.

AgroPages: Can you predict the future development trend of the agricultural market?

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the agricultural market experienced significant supply chain disruptions, followed by antithetical inventory build-ups in 2021/22 to mitigate the supply risks. The correction of this "bullwhip effect" resulted in collapsed demand across the entire value chain – and the globe – in 2023. However, as the effects of the pandemic continue to subside, Clariant anticipates a gradual return to normal growth rates in the agricultural sector.

While the current year may still present challenges, particularly amidst macroeconomic uncertainties such as high interest rates, declining farm incomes, and fluctuating crop commodity prices, we remain very optimistic about the future. The fundamental demand for agricultural products persists and we will continue to develop in line with global population growth.

Furthermore, climate change and unexpected weather events present regional risks, but also new opportunities. For example, the recent end of El Niño has negatively impacted the rice yield in certain regions. However, this setback presents an opportunity for rice growers to ramp up production in the upcoming season, which will have a positive impact on the Asian agricultural market in 2025.

As we successfully navigate through all these challenges, we are committed to our customers’ success and to contributing to the sustainable growth of the agricultural industry.

If you would like to share your company's story and solutions in AgroPages, please contact Grace Yuan (grace@agropages.com).

To know more formulation and adjuvant technology, please pay attention to AgroPages' upcoming '2024 Formulation&Adjuvant Technology' magazine.


Source: AgroNews


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