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Bayer: The Core Strategy of Accelerating Formulation Technology Innovationqrcode

Jul. 8, 2019

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Jul. 8, 2019
“Digital tools are enhancing both formulation development and the application of delivery of products.  In Development, we use modeling and prediction tools to speed up screening or to simulate operating environments.  We are also able to use robot technologies in formulation screening to improve accurate handling and dosing of a large range of active ingredients and formulation inerts ,” said Dr. Bernhard Grimmig, Head of Formulation Technology, Crop Science Division of Bayer, in a recent interview with AgroPages.

 He also shared his views on future development trends of novel formulation and  application technologies,challenges that affect formulation innovation and development, strategies of formulation development, digitalization technologies to enhance efficacy for formulation development/application/delivery, as well as innovation formulation and application technologies launched by Bayer.

Q1. What novel formulation and application technologies are needed to meet the needs of growers over the next 5 to 10 years in different regions of the world?

New advancements in application technologies, such as drones, direct-injection systems and autonomous field robots, change the way our crop protection products are applied. Improvements in sensor-technology and image recognition, combined with ultra-fast computing power, are allowing high-resolution weed detection and increasingly precise disease and pest prediction, which form the basis of new service offerings for our customers.
The fundamental formulation solutions and approaches will not change. Nevertheless, I believe that the overall relevance of formulation technologies will increase in the future, specifically as the rate of introduction of new active ingredients has declined in recent years. Formulation technologies have to meet increasing regulatory requirements for reducing the environmental impact,  such as the reduction of off-target losses, biodegradability and also technical challenges resulting from new active principles such as biocontrol solutions, peptides, and RNA-based or antibody-based solutions. However, this will also help to generate IP and introducing new competitive solutions.
Further advancements in formulation science are key to improve bio-delivery, reduce environmental impact, ease handling and increase stability, particularly in low-volume applications by drones, boom-sprayers and robot applications. These features are quickly becoming key selling points for our customers, and increase the perceived value for important Bayer product brands. Another example of the relevance of formulation technologies are innovative solutions allowing a slow/controlled release of active ingredients, thereby improving crop safety and duration of control in soil or paddy fields. Encapsulation technologies can also reduce the volatility of active ingredients, chemical compatibility and the shelf-life of biological crop protection products. Other formulation technologies aim at reducing off-target losses, such as  dust from seeds, drift, wash-off or improving rain-fastness.
Finally, despite their relatively low market share today, biologicals (or biopesticides) will offer clear growth opportunities for our industry in the future. Due to the active nature of biological crop protection products, formulation technology will help to address challenges around shelf life, formulation stability and the efficacy of these solutions.

Q2. Could you share some specific cases of how your company develops agrochemical formulations suited to different global regions?

One example is in Europe, as well as the cereal market where EC Fungicide formulations with good leaf activity and penetration of cereal fungicides are needed.  In North America, we typically develop liquid formulations, such as SL-type herbicides or non-adjuvanted SC-type formulations, in light of the established strong tank-mix adjuvant market.  In the Asia-Pacific region, and especially in Japan, we focus on specialty solutions for rice growers.  For example, we develop shaker bottle solutions, granules and jumbo granules, and there is a growing market for drone applications with a need for ultra -low water volumes. In Latin America, where the market is dominated by large farm operations, there is a particular need for the easy handling of products and preparation of spray solutions

What are the challenges in R&D for new formulations and possible solutions? What technologies has  your company adopted to speed up formulation technology innovations?

Our R&D efforts are focused on a variety of key areas.  For example, we devote a lot of time on environmental and human safety aspects of our formulations, such as reducing the off-target movement of products or further minimizing risk to operators.  We work a lot on areas around mixing, including developing premixes with multiple active ingredients to ensure chemical compatibility, or compatibility with tax mix partners, such as fertilizers.  And product quality measures are critical: stability of products, efficacy and shelf-life, and robustness of the formulations.

To continually improve our ability to bring new innovations to the market, we rely on our extensive background in formulation design with the latest data science tools.  Over the past decades, we have gathered a wealth of formulation recipe data and related analytical data (chemical and physical stability data), as well as data from bioavailability and efficacy testing of various formulation concepts. Making best use of these data sources remains a key challenge, but also offers a great opportunity for us. It is important for us to continue establishing data platforms for data capture in the formulation space and also improve our data analysis capability by combining formulation data with analytical and biological data, in order to make better predictions for the design of formulations.

At the heart of all of this advancement is our people.  We have formulation expertise built on diverse and complementing expertise: colloid scientists, chemists, physicists, biologists, biotechnologists, people with engineering backgrounds, and more.  We built an internal formulation community across the various Bayer divisions for know-how sharing, and we collaborate and exchange with universities to foster fundamental science in the formulation area, and to have access to talents.

Q4. Could you share some cases in the digitalization technologies that enhance efficacy for formulation development/application/delivery?

Digital tools are enhancing both formulation development and the application of delivery of products.  In Development, we use modeling and prediction tools to speed up screening or to simulate operating environments.  We are also able to use robot technologies in formulation screening to improve accurate handling and dosing of a large range of active ingredients and formulation inerts.

Digital tools are rapidly changing how our products are used.  For example, digital weed control is being used on railways.  With partners, we have developed a train equipped with camera systems to detect weeds, which opens spray nozzles only in the presence of weeds, reducing the need for herbicides to keep tracks clean and safe. Similar technologies are being deployed for farmers to use in their fields.

Q5.  What is the core competence that drives formulation technology innovation in your company?

Our core competence is combining the vast knowledge and experience we have across Bayer in a wide range of disciplines, such as chemistry, biology, field development, application technology, and more.  To do this, we have an in-house innovation platform in the formulation area, which allows exploration of blue-sky ideas and new formulation concepts, and ensures cross-site know-how exchanges between different formulation teams.  

And while we have an excellent understanding of product performance attributes, such as efficacy, application behavior and shelf life stability, we continually look outwards to improve. For example, we partner with our commercial teams to ensure sound understanding of market needs and involvement in the design of new commercial product concepts to best meet our customers’ needs.  And we actively collaborate with universities and other outside experts to expand knowledge and perspective.

Q6.  What innovation formulation technologies have been launched by your company?  What are the agricultural concerns solved by them?

Recent launches demonstrating how formulation technology enables new product concepts:

●    Bayer, inventor of Oil Dispersion technology for a range of highly potent herbicides, e.g. Laudis™OD, and newer introductions, such as MaisTer™ Power / Monsoon™ active OD, oil required  for chemical stability of SU herbicides and boosting biological efficacy.
●    XtendiMax™ Herbicide with Vapor Grip Technology to minimize off-target losses and vapor drift of dicamba
●    Fox™ Xpro Fungicide in Brazil, our new benchmark fungicide for outstanding soybean rust control combining 3 different modes of action with SDHi chemistry (Bixafen), azole (Prothioconazole) and strobilurin fungicide (Trifloxystrobin) providing superior performance through innovative formulation technology, such as adjuvants for improved wetting and rain-fastness.
●    K-Othrine™ Polyzone, an example of a new innovative formulation which added new features to an existing pyrethroid insecticide via a polymer-enhanced suspension concentrate, which provides excellent long-lasting control (used for in-door control, e.g. mosquito).
●    Specticle™ Herbicide for pre-emergence weed control in turf. The challenge was to avoid movement of herbicides into the turf root zone, which has been achieved through the addition of suitable polymers / carriers.
Upcoming new launches include:

Vayego™ Insecticide based upon novel diamide chemistry for lepidopteran control, where the technical quality (i.e. crystal modification of the active ingredient) posed significant challenges during formulation development.)
New developments based on RNAi:

BioDirect, RNAi for varroa control - We recently submitted a new Varroa Control Product to the EPA for registration, based upon double-stranded RNA, which is the first U.S. EPA submission for an exogenously applied, dsRNA biopesticidal active ingredient in the industry. Contributions from Formulation technology were key in developing this new technology, ensuring sufficient stability and uptake of this new active ingredient principle.

This article was initially published in AgroPages '2019 Formulation & Adjuvant Technology ' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more articles.


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