Editor's Note: "For the future, we are focusing considerable effort on the development of innovative and sustainable products to meet new demands and trends in dispersants, solvents, co-formulants for high electrolyte systems and biologicals," said Jonathan Selby, Global Business Director Agricultural Market, Innospec Performance Chemicals in a recent interview with AgroPages.
He also shared his views on the Innospec’s global presence, core competitiveness, product series & special features, business model, strategic partnership, the challenges in formulation innovation and the possible solutions, as well as future development plan etc.
Global Business Director Agricultural Market, Innospec Performance Chemicals
AgroPages: Please introduce Innospec and highlight its agrochemical business, competitive strengths and global presence.
Innospec is a specialty chemical company with over 2000 employees and manufacturing sites, technical laboratories and sales offices in 23 countries. The size of the company and our carefully selected strategies allow us to remain an efficient and reliable global supplier, while staying nimble to meet regional market changes. The company is comprised of three business units: Fuel Specialties, Oilfield Additives and Performance Chemicals. We rely on a very broad range of products and technologies. Many products are developed for specific applications and yet through focused cross fertilisation provide an important expanded source of innovation.
The Performance Chemicals Business Unit commercializes formulation additives in Personal Care, Home Care, Agrochemicals, Metal Extraction and Industrial Chemicals. Within the Agrochemicals segment, we are primarily active in crop protection and specialty fertilizers, offering a diverse range of surfactants, emulsifiers, chelating agents and specialty solvents.
We are present in the 3 regions, EMEA, Americas and AsPac, with principal operations in Europe and North America. Our customers benefit from our quality assurance and service reliability, as well as the strength of our worldwide manufacturing and distribution capabilities.
We aim to keep very close contact with our customers, offering value added technical solutions with full scale laboratories based in UK and US. In particular, we are committed to continuously improve the sustainability of our products and help our customers respond to environmental challenges through innovation and improved product performance.
Last but not least, we understand the complexity of the regulatory environment and our dedicated team regularly provides support to customers while they register their global formulation. As an example, Innospec has listed more than 70 inert ingredients at the US EPA trade name database in the last 5 years.
AgroPages: Who are the major target client groups of Innospec in agrochemical? What’s the business model?
We primarily supply additives to the crop protection formulators, within the highly consolidated Agchem industry. Therefore, Innospec is building relationships at all levels of the industry including Tier I players, global generics and strong regional players. One important dimension in our success is collaboration. Whether assisting in formulating, manufacturing or regulatory requirements of our formulants, Innospec is committed to collaborating with our customers to find creative and effective solutions for their formulation needs.
To this regard, there is clear trend towards more sustainable formulation additives. The dichotomy between product performance and sustainability criteria, such as environmental impact, will be reduced or may even disappear. Sustainability is a very strong driver, not unique to agrochemicals, but a very complex one. Each industry has its own regulatory framework and develops its own criteria on “what a sustainable additive is”. In order to better understand this specific aspect and delineate what Sustainability means to our customers, we’re launching a customer survey in October 2021.
AgroPages: Could you talk about Innospec’s product series & special features in agrochemicals? Is there any plan to launch more new products?
Innospec has a wide range of non-ionic and anionic surfactants, including castor oil ethoxylates, fatty alcohol ethoxylates, salts of alkylbenzene sulfonates and di-alkyl sulfosuccinates.
One particular strength within the Innospec line is our NANSA® EVM series, calcium dodecyl benzene sulfonates. Innospec feels this line is the most extensive and highest quality offering of these chemistries in the world. These alkylbenzene sulfonates are the “work horse” anionic surfactants that can be used in a number of emulsified systems. The Innospec line includes more than 15 grades, based on both linear and branched alkylate, formulated in a variety of solvents for flexibility in final formulations. We continue developing new grades and we have recently launched the NANSA® EVM 40/2ND and NANSA® EVM 40/2NDL, based on an aromatic solvent and a fatty alcohol ethoxylate. For more than 25 years, all NANSA® EVM products have been manufactured in Italy, in one of the largest units in the world dedicated solely to these products, thus ensuring product quality and reliability.
Another recent interesting addition to our product line is the ENVIOMET® EM 5662, a di-octyl sulfosuccinate in methylated oil. This anionic surfactant has a very low water content, making it suitable for use with active ingredients sensitive to hydrolysis. This grade is optimised to provide superior emulsification, as well as very good wetting properties. It can act as an emulsifier/ built-in adjuvant for oil dispersions and suspo-emulsions based on methylated oils and vegetable oils. It can also be used as a component of tank mix adjuvant blends, providing good wetting, spreading and enhanced penetration.
In terms of alkoxylated chemistry, we are now launching the ENVIOMET® EM 3151, an EO/PO derivative based on 2-ethyl hexanol. This product provides superior wetting properties, leading to improved efficacy and can be incorporated in water based and solvent based formulations. It is a liquid product, compatible with most anionic and non-ionic surfactants, with a favorable toxicological and environmental profile.
Finally, Innospec also has 3 specialty solvents, the ENVIOMET® SOL BA, ENVIOMET® SOL 2-EH Lactates and ENVIOMET® SOL DBC. These solvents are water immiscible, high flash point and can be used in emulsifiable concentrate, emulsion in water and suspo-emulsion formulations. They exhibit a low toxicity profile and have minimal impact on the environment.
AgroPages: Could you talk about your company's strategic partnership with agrochemical companies? What are Innospec's requirements in choosing partners? Is there any plan to extend more new markets?
Innospec has a unique innovation process that has produced a number of breaks through products, fueling growth in different business segments. We generally split the innovative process between “customer pull” and “technology push” projects.
“Customer pull” is, as the name suggests, a collaborative project with a customer. When choosing the partner, we look for strong technical expertise, significant market understanding and a willingness to become fully involved in the cooperation and intellectual discourse that is necessary to develop a problem-solving product.
“Technology push” targets a broad customer base and is meant to bring a solution to an existing problem, due to a technical limitation or a new regulatory restriction. Regulatory issues, in particular, can play an important role in driving change and creating new opportunities. We have witnessed this rapid development and product adaptation in the past with the ban of nonyl phenol ethoxylates in the European Union. Another recent example: Innospec has seen a strong increased demand for the ENVIOMET® C, a readily biodegradable chelating agent, that can be used in micro-nutrient applications. We believe that the use of this biodegradable chelating agent is very consistent with the principles of sustainable agriculture, particularly for organic certified products.
AgroPages: What are the challenges in formulation innovation and the possible solutions? Could you share some specific cases of how your company helps clients develop innovation formulations suited to different market needs?
As already mentioned, regulatory requirements play a major role in developing new formulation additives. Everyday our industry becomes increasingly regulated by government agencies. For instance, the European Commission has published in March 2021 the list of formulation additives that are not acceptable for use in plant protection products. More than a simple list, this new regulation clearly states that all carcinogen, mutagen, toxic to reproduction, persistent, the so-called PBT and vPvB, and the endocrine disrupting substances should not be used to formulate a plant protection product anymore. This is a serious challenge for Innospec and our customers in general, as the toxicity and environmental testing are constantly evolving and product classification can change with time. These requirements put more pressure on suppliers to develop safer and more sustainable products to meet market demands. Of course, new demands and trends open opportunities for those that can innovate and technology will play an important role to find tomorrow’s solutions.
It is particularly true in the growing “biologicals” segment –biological pesticides, whether biochemical or microbials, have specific challenges in terms of performance and stability that can be addressed by formulation technology. While our participation in this segment is just beginning, we strongly believe this segment is an important area of growth and innovation in crop protection. Innospec now has active programs for product development in biologicals in a number of market segments including Agrochemicals.
An excellent example of the development of a more environmentally sound product, is the previously mentioned ENVIOMET® C. In a molluscicide application, ferric phosphate combined with this biodegradable chelating agent, is able to effectively replace traditional active ingredients like metaldehyde. This is an excellent opportunity for farmers and amateur gardeners to switch to a more sustainable product without compromising on efficacy.
AgroPages: What’s the future development planning of Innospec in agrochemical over the next 3-5 years?
Innospec’s participation in the Agrochemicals Industry began in early 2017 with the acquisition of three major European based manufacturing assets, corresponding product technology, key personnel and sales legacy. This acquisition immediately gave Innospec a 25-year baseline of experience in Agrochemicals. Innospec was very excited to combine its aforementioned track record of innovation and break through technology with this excellent product and asset base. We have dedicated significant resources to fully supporting strong growth and innovation in the Agrochemicals market segment and have begun several ground-breaking development projects for the future.
A clear indication of Innospec commitment: by the end of 2021, there will be a new Technology Center at our plant site in Salisbury, in North Carolina. This facility will include ten laboratories that will support its global Performance Chemical’s R&D, new product development and technical service activities with its customers. The new technology Center will house the global Product Development for Agricultural Chemicals and have state-of-the art capability to develop liquid, dry and biological formulations.
The Technology Center is representative of Innospec’s continued investment in new products and technologies that will help our customers meet their long-term sustainability objectives. In anticipation of the completion and opening of the research facility, Innospec has already begun to expand its technical team. In addition, significant investment has gone into our site in Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom, another site with state-of-the art capability for agrochemicals.
For the future, we are focusing considerable effort on the development of innovative and sustainable products to meet new demands and trends in dispersants, solvents, co-formulants for high electrolyte systems and biologicals. As the new Global Business Director, I have to say that I have had the full support of the board and upper management to build, buy, hire or develop what and whomever I feel is necessary for a very bright future.
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This interview will be published in AgroPages '2021 Market Insight' magazine to be published this Oct.
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