Editor Note: “Many labs only provide specific services, such as formulation development or safety testing. Contracting with multiple labs for different aspects of development is hard to manage and slows development timelines. Battelle offers turnkey solutions for the whole development process, from product concept through formulation development through regulatory testing, risk assessment and dossier preparation. We have the capabilities to handle all of our clients development and testing needs, including formulation for both conventional and biologic formulations, safety testing, residue testing, spray testing, agricultural drift studies in tunnels as well as on fields (UAV) and more,”said Dominik Reinhard, MBA, European Head of Commercial Sales, Crop Protection Division at Battelle in a recent interview with AgroPages.
He also shared his views on Battelle’s Agrochemical formulation business & testing services and core strengths, innovation formulation technology, the challenge of bioformulation development and solutions, innovative business models, as well as Battelle' s support to address today’s general challenges of the crop protection industry etc.
Dominik Reinhard, MBA
European Head of Commercial Sales, Crop Protection Division at Battelle
Please introduce Battelle’s Agribusiness, especially its Agrochemical formulation business & testing services, global presence and core competitiveness.
Battelle is an independent not-for-profit organization that advances science and technology to have the greatest impact on our society and economy. As a committed partner in advancing global food security and nutrition, we strengthen the work of agrochemical companies who feed the world by providing services and solutions focused on protecting crops, improving agricultural developments and reducing environmental risks. Our scientific research, STEM and philanthropic initiatives provide purpose, support climate resilience, and help to feed the world, enabling our clients to develop innovative solutions to agriculture’s most complex challenges. Headquartered in Columbus Ohio, Battelle is uniquely positioned globally to work with our clients wherever they are and to deliver solutions where ever our clients need them to be. We provide regulatory support, risk assessment for environment, consumer and operator health and wildlife, dossier preparation, submission and defence, exposure modelling, early phase research screening, product safety testing, spray drift assessment in our tailor made wind tunnel facilities and innovative formulation development solutions.
Battelle is working with our formulation clients and partners to develop sustainable crop protection products, fertilizers and growth agents that are more sustainable, targeted, stable, usable or effective. New formulations are urgently needed to better meet the needs of farmers around the globe while protecting human health and the environment. Our conveniently to London Heathrow located contract formulation development lab at Havant, UK is in operation since November 2003, after the BASF R&D Laboratories at Gosport closed. Our senior formulation development experts each have 25–40 years of experience with multinationals in Formulations R&D and our team is developing in average 200 innovative and high quality agrochemical formulations per year. We confidently work with the following formulation technologies: emulsions and suspo-emulsions, dispersible granules, capsule suspensions, solutions and microemulsions, emulsifiable and dispersible concentrates, seed dressing formulation development, suspension Concentrates & oil dispersions, sub-micron (200–400 nm) SCs, Biopesticide / Biostimulant Formulation and many others.
Currently, we are evaluating a new solution to address the efficacy of new formulations in a high-tech glasshouse which perfectly extends our current service offering in formulation development.
What are the challenges in formulation innovation and the potential solutions? Could you share some specific cases of how your company helps clients develop innovation formulations suited to different market needs? Especially some innovation formulation technology, such as: bioformulation, capsule suspension, controlled-release systems, seed dressing formulation development etc.
Formulation innovations are urgently needed in order to address the agrochemical industry’s need in finding green and sustainable solutions and to meet the challenging targets of the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork Initiative, reducing the crop protection product use by 50% in 2030.
Battelle is working amongst others on the following key challenges in formulation innovation to support our agrochemical clients most urgent needs:
Multi-Active Ingredient Formulations: Multi-active formulations reduce the number of individual applications required, making crop protection easier and more cost-effective for farmers. However, combining multiple active ingredients in one formulation vastly increases the complexity of formulation. Different active ingredients may have different sensitivities to moisture or pH requirements. Some active ingredients can interact adversely with each other (or with impurities found in some actives), which may cause chemical degradation. We’re solving these problems using a variety of methods, including encapsulation, Oil Dispersions (OD) and Water Dispersible Granules (WG).
Replacing Microplastics in Capsule Suspension (CS) & Flowable Seed Treatment (FS) Formulations: Encapsulation enables new possibilities for agrochemicals, allowing companies to combine incompatible ingredients, improve shelf stability or create products that are activated by specific environmental triggers. Many of the existing encapsulation technologies depend on synthetic polymers, which stay in the environment as microplastics. Some seed treatment stickers have also been classified as microplastics. Proposed regulations in the EU and elsewhere banning microplastics will impact these formulations. Battelle is helping agrochemical companies get ahead of the game and improve the sustainability of their encapsulated and seed treatment products by moving to bio-based polymers that safely degrade in the environment.
Moving to Oil-Dispersions: Many crop protection ingredients, such as sulfonylurea herbicides, are moisture sensitive. Moving to Oil Dispersion (OD) formulations helps to make them more stable. ODs can provide additional advantages, too—such as serving as adjuvants to improve biological efficacy. However, moving to OD formulations is not without challenges. Our chemists are working to translate existing water-based formulations into OD formulations to improve stability and enable co-formulation with other actives.
What's the challenge of bioformulation development?
Microbial formulations using live microbes have shown tremendous promise for controlling insects and fungi. They are also used as biostimulants to improve plant growth—for example, by improving nutrient take-up. These emerging microbial treatments have the potential to complement the use of conventional pesticides with different or novel modes of action and improve efficacy and sustainability in agriculture. However, many microbial formulations have limited shelf life, remaining viable for only weeks to a few months even in highly controlled cold storage conditions. For widespread global use, there is a need for formulations that are stable for one to two years under a range of temperature and humidity conditions. At Battelle, we have microbiologists and formulation chemists working side-by-side to create long-lasting, resilient microbial formulations for both liquid foliar application and on-seed treatment.
Do you offer beyond fee-for-service formulation development work also other innovative business models to the agrochemical industry?
The agrochemical formulation industry is changing rapidly. You need a formulation partner who is on top of the latest trends and knows how to apply new technologies and methods to solve tough challenges. That’s exactly what we do at Battelle. Our clients come to us because they trust us to solve their most difficult problems, from creating shelf-stable multi-ingredient formulations to finding environmentally-friendly replacement ingredients to meet new regulatory requirements. Besides classical fee-for-service formulation work we also continually invest in original research, creating new intellectual property that can be leveraged or licensed by our clients and partners.
One of our worldwide patented technologies available for licensing is called “Banyan”, a co-development with Mitsui AgriScience International. Banyan is a highly innovative formulation technology that enables the formulation of chemically stable and efficacious liquid sulfonylurea (SU) herbicides which also received an award as “highly commended” in Agrow’s Crop Science Forum & Awards 2019 category Best Formulation Innovation. SU herbicides are generally prone to hydrolytic instability. Consequently, the vast majority of formulated products containing these herbicides are granules. A few non aqueous liquid formulations are on the market, but until now, chemical instability has prevented the majority of SUs from being formulated as liquids. Battelle found the perfect solution and offers agrochemical companies to get access to new innovative and highly differentiated crop protection formulations with the potential to rapidly untap new global markets.
Could you share today’s general challenges of the crop protection industry where Battelle could offer support? What impact did these challenges have on your clients and your own company’s business?
The pressure on the agrochemical industry to develop new and foremost sustainable new molecules and formulations that pass regulatory and “green” compliance has never been more challenging than today while R&D budgets do not suffice to follow up all strategically relevant options for development and global registration. Hence, the agrochemical industry is leaving significant business opportunities untapped that could help to feed the world.
Battelle is a highly financially secure science and technology organization that offers innovative and strategic business models to selected clients that fund and pre-invest expert resources to realize joined developments, from regulatory strategy creation through formulation development and product safety testing to risk assessment, exposure modelling, dossier preparation, submission and defense.
This makes Battelle your unique strategic partner to leverage synergistic collaborative efforts to enable a maximum use of your R&D portfolio and generates competitive advantage while boosting global market presence.
Why should the agrochemical industry choose Battelle over other similar service providers?
Many labs only provide specific services, such as formulation development or safety testing. Contracting with multiple labs for different aspects of development is hard to manage and slows development timelines. Battelle offers turnkey solutions for the whole development process, from product concept through formulation development through regulatory testing, risk assessment and dossier preparation. We have the capabilities to handle all of our clients development and testing needs, including formulation for both conventional and biologic formulations, safety testing, residue testing, spray testing, agricultural drift studies in tunnels as well as on fields (UAV) and more. Those industry leading solutions conducted at our global centre of excellence for precision agriculture, enable prescriptive and targeted applications of products to reduce pesticide use, spray drift, and operator exposure. Ultimately, we simplify the development process and ensure that our clients have all the pieces in place for a smooth regulatory submission, either based on fee-for-service or on our innovative outsourcing models. Preparing our clients for competitive advantage and increased market presence.
This interview will be published in AgroPages '2022 Formulation & Adjuvant Technology ' magazine to be published this May.
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