Vice President, Global Marketing and Business
Management of Valent BioSciences
Sumitomo Chemical announced last year that Valent BioSciences LLC (VBC) in the US will be responsible for all of the biorational-related business functions of Sumitomo Chemical Group, to further strengthen its biorational business.
Recently, AgroPages had the chance to interview Regina Rieckenberg, Vice President, Global Marketing and Business Management. She provided us with a detailed interpretation of VBC's current business structure, key projects and future development direction, as well as why the biorational business is so important to Sumitomo Chemical and growers around the world.
More and more business sectors were included in Valent BioSciences LLC (VBC) through multiple acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and licensing agreements in recent years. VBC now is responsible for all of the biorational-related business functions of Sumitomo Chemical Group. Could you please introduce the current business structure of VBC? What are the major business sectors that VBC is focusing on?
Valent BioSciences LLC has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tokyo’s Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. since it was acquired in 2000. We are a leader in the biorational marketspace, with our five business units: Biorational Crop Enhancement, Biorational Crop Protection, Biorational Rhizosphere (Soil Health), Public Health and Forest Health. We intend to continue leading the market in these sectors through the power of fermentation and microorganisms. In the past few years, we have acquired Mycorrhizal Applications LLC, the world’s leading supplier of mycorrhizal soil inoculant products, along with Pace International LLC, which provides sustainable postharvest solutions and technologies, equipment and technical services.
Sumitomo Chemical is one of the early companies to focus on the biorational business. Could you please brief us on the development situation of the global biorational industry? Why VBC is positioning itself in this area?
Sumitomo Chemical foresaw the tremendous potential of the biorational business when it acquired Valent BioSciences more than 20 years ago. Our business fits well with Sumitomo Chemical’s focus on innovation and developing products that create and deliver value, as well as a dedication to corporate social value and fostering a more sustainable future. We are confident about the future of biorationals and intend to continue growing and innovating to deliver effective solutions to growers around the world.
The Biorational Research Center’s state-of-the-art facilities help maintain VBC’s leadership position in developing innovative biorational products and technologies for agricultural, public health and forest health applications.
Which new products will be introduced to the market by VBC this year?
We have several microbial-based technologies that we are working toward commercializing during the next few years. Specifically, we have several biofungicides in our pipeline, as well as next-generation crop and soil enhancement products.
In 2019, VBC launched a global soil health initiative, and last month, Valent and the Soil Health Partnership signed an agreement on soil health. What is the progress and are there any achievements by the company in this business sector?
Our purchase of the Mycorrhizal Applications business has already paid great dividends, and we expect it to continue sparking development of new soil health technologies and products. In addition, we recently established a more formal relationship with the Biorational Research Unit at Sumitomo Chemical’s Health & Crop Sciences Research Laboratory in Japan. One of the key areas of focus will be on various projects related to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Valent BioSciences is continuing to work with a variety of leading organizations to educate the industry about the importance of soil health through partnerships and other high-profile initiatives.
In terms of application, in which region(s) of the world do you think biological solutions hold promise?
We are a global business and are experiencing increased sales and an enhanced focus on biorational solutions in virtually every region. Not surprisingly, Europe has been leading this movement for many years. Recent legislative mandates, such as the 'Farm to Fork' Initiative, will require further use of biorational and organic products. Other countries, including Japan, are developing similar legislation. Rapid growth will come from Latin America and Asia. Valent BioSciences has recently taken several steps to accelerate the growth of our biorational business, including establishing a direct reporting line into the top management of the Health & Crop Sciences sector at our parent company, Sumitomo Chemical, expanding the focused selling organizations in key regions and establishing a Chief Commercial Officer position at Valent BioSciences.
What do you think of the competition in the biological field in the future as multinationals start to position the biological business clearer?
Biological products provide sustainable and effective controls for agriculture, forest health and public health. As of 2020, the biorational marketspace was estimated to be worth US$7 billion, according to several sources, and growing at double-digit rates. We anticipate that this growth rate will continue for the foreseeable future and that the industry will continue to move in an increasingly more sustainable direction. That is good news for the industry and consumers alike.
What is the position of the biorational business in Sumitomo Chemical's strategic planning and what is VBC's vision of the future development of the biorational business?
Biorationals, sustainability and carbon neutrality are key elements of Sumitomo’s strategic planning for growth in the Health and Crop Sciences Sector. Valent BioSciences is renowned for its innovation, best-in-class manufacturing and broad biorational product portfolio that complements Sumitomo Chemical’s conventional products. Some of the key long-term growth drivers for our business growth include the billions of additional people on earth who will need more food; climate change; greater awareness of soil health; loss of conventional crop protection products; non-fertilizer yield improvements, and increasing consumer demand for safe, local and high-quality food. We are on a mission to reimagine agriculture and public health through the power of fermentation and microbiology.
Valent BioSciences' global Biorational Headquarters (BHQ) in the Innovation Park in Libertyville, Illinois