BTU-CENTER is a powerful player in the East European biologicals market. Since it was founded in 1999 the company managed to become one of the 25% of the largest microbiologicals manufacturers in the world industry. The enterprise’s portfolio includes more than 60 products for plants biological nutrition and protection, as well as for restoration of soil fertility.
Recently we spoke with Dmytro Yakovenko, Head of International Sales at BTU-CENTER over its biological business, product portfolio & unique feature and production capabilities, as well as the dynamic changes and future development trend for biologicals etc.
Dmytro Yakovenko, Head of International Sales at BTU-CENTER
Could you briefly introduce BTU-CENTER’s biological business?
BTU-CENTER is a Ukrainian manufacturer of microbial preparations for agriculture. Being the only Ukrainian member of the IBMA we are the largest producer and exporter of such products in Ukraine. The group of companies has a team of roughly 500 people who work at the company’s own production facilities, commercial offices in Ukraine and Germany, R&D center “Institute of Applied Biotechnology”, and its own logistics park. The portfolio of BTU-CENTER includes 66 biostimulants, biofertilizers and biocontrol products applied on 4 million hectares. Production facilities are about 10 000 t/year. Since 2017 we have launched systematic export. 8 biological products have the EU registration now. Our products are exported to 18 countries worldwide, and their research continues in 10 more countries.
How can you describe the current state of the biological market? What and where are the biggest opportunities and challenges for biologicals? What are the factors affecting changes of the biological market?
The global biologicals market is in a phase of rapid growth but there still exist lots of restraining factors.
Both in Ukraine and worldwide there was a long way to make people trust to biologicals. And there is still a lot to be done there. With the appearance of scientific research, practical evidential base, qualitive marketing campaigns now agrarians understand very clear that biologicals are not “a mystic water”. The market is developing and with scores of trials results farmers consider biologicals with more confidence. Moreover, there are many good initiatives that boost it, like Green Deal in Europe. The whole world wants to eat healthy food and without any biological plants protection and nutrition products this doesn’t make any economic sense.
Of course, there are many hidden threats and restraints. We understand that there are more yield losses in organic farming than in conventional approach. And organic technology can’t be applied worldwide in the time of a global food crisis. Integrated technology, mix of pesticides and biologicals, may be a good compromise. Concerning the amount and quality of yields it doesn’t concede the chemical technology. It allows to decrease chemical impact on soil and plants, to solve the issues of pests resistance and pesticides residues in the final products.
Another deterrent, especially in the EU, is regulatory frameworks. This is a very long and expensive procedure to register a biological pesticide in Europe. There are many talks about this issue in specialized associations like IBMA – the registration should be simplified. Biologicals and chemicals are very different and they need separate individual procedures that might be faster and cheaper. For now registration process in the EU costs from 500 000 euro to millions of euro for one active ingredient of microbiological origin and its registration as a final product. The price also depends on the number of harmful objects on which it’s registered, crops etc. This registration procedure can last for 7-10 years, that’s too long for business focused on innovations.
In BTU-CENTER we have complex products, for example biofungicide Sclerotsyd. It is a multicomponent biological. Its сomposition is specially created for high efficiency and universality in use. Sclerotsyd is effective against agents of white rot, phomopsis and many other pathogens. But registration of 4 strains is almost impossible for us, because each strain should be registered separately and if even one is declined, we won’t get the same product. The product is of very high interest by agricompanies but they can’t buy it because of the current law restrictions.
With biostimulants the situation is a bit easier because the significant changes in the registration procedure in Europe are in process right now. But these details are worthy of a separate discussion – there are too many unknown moments today.
A couple of words about biofertilizers - a big interest to this category is observed because of the high prices on fertilizers and Green Deal program. Farmers all over the world try to decrease fertilizers use and this is one of the problems BTU-CENTER actively helps with. We have a PK-mobilizer Groundfix which enhances assimilation of NPK and makes possible to reduce fertilizers up to 20% without loss in the yields. We have powerful evidence base, results of scientific and industrial trials and best practices of agronomist who really see the results.
Could you highlight BTU-CENTER’s approach to the work with biologicals?
We have a very rich product line – 60 biologicals: N-fixators, inoculants, mycorrhizal products, PK-mobilizers, biopesticides, bioadhesives, biological fertilizers for soil health, biologicals for livestock farming. We can cover almost all farmers needs in biological inputs.
The stable high quality of biologicals based on microorganisms is not the easiest issue when we speak about ensuring the stability of microorganisms and their virulence. We have complex products that include selected strains used within one product. They strengthen each other, give the product higher efficiency, versatility in use. This is also one of the advantages, namely the availability of universal, complex products that close a number of issues.
What is always appreciated is the support of the manufacturer and a partnership built on trust. At BTU-CENTER, we have made it a rule to provide full agronomic support to our partners, so our consulting office employs about 50 professional agronomists-practitioners, including those who specialize in entomology and phytopathology, soil health, and have the highest scientific degrees. All this allows us to quickly respond to requests from foreign partners from everywhere, which they really appreciate.
Taking into account our considerable experience in Ukraine, we have a practice of field inspections, joint research, online and offline training seminars, and online courses. All this builds trust in our experts and helps us stay on the same page with our partners.
We try to choose like-minded people with whom we share common values – contribution to the health of humanity, focus on the needs of farmers and decency in doing business. It is important for us to involve our partners in marketing. We are open to new partnerships and are happy to share our expertise in the field of microbial preparations for agriculture.
And in terms of production?
In terms of production, it is currently more than 10,000 tons of liquid products per year, and this figure is increasing annually. We are constantly working to improve technological elements, such as oil-free compressors that minimize the risk of any air pollution during fermentation. This is just one of many elements, as this rather technological production is currently operational. ISO 9001 has also been introduced. In recent years, we have been improving our formulations. Including the fact that we already have certain production facilities for dry water-soluble forms, we are currently testing them and scaling them. There are separate divisions for the development and search for promising strains, the development of optimal recipes and their continuous improvement. Work with scientific literature and industry achievements. The Institute of Applied Biotechnology tests all hypotheses, cooperates with various scientific institutions in their own laboratories under all necessary conditions.
What impacts has the current Russia-Ukraine conflict brought to your company and Ukrainian market?
Of course, we feel, unfortunately. Our factory is located in Vinnytsia region on the Ukraine-controlled area where is comparatively safe. The head office in Kyiv is closed for the moment because of the ongoing threat of missiles attacks. On February 24, 2022, with the beginning of Russia-Ukraine conflict BTU-CENTER stopped any business relations with Russia and Belarus despite they formed a notable share of company’s export.
For BTU-CENTER team is crucial to continue cooperation with key partners to ensure stability of the company and safety of its people. A company keeps preparing for the sowing season and forms storages with highly effective biologicals.
BTU-CENTER international team is focused on the EU market now and plans to step up the company’s presence in the region.
The production is stable for now. Speaking on Ukrainian market, on the one hand BTU-CENTER lost some share of market because of Ukraine is partially occupied and it’s impossible to deliver the goods to these territories. Moreover, many agricompanies are destroyed by Russian missiles and great number of fields are mined, especially on the North and East areas. On the other hand, farmers feel a deficit of international chemicals and fertilizers and for BTU-CENTER this is an opportunity to help agrarians and propose alternative. It’s hard and risky to make any forecast but the company expects not to lose its volumes significantly.
Despite all prices in Ukraine increased, BTU-CENTER has not changed prices for its products to actually support agricultural producers. The payment procedures are maximum flexible. For those agrarians who suffered the most BTU-CENTER provided biologicals for free.
BTU-CENTER team is about 500 people in the group of companies throughout all Ukraine. The head office in Kyiv is closed. For those people who needed evacuation BTU-CENTER provided free accommodation in Vinnytsia region. BTU-CENTER tries to save jobs and financially support team members who have been particularly hard hit by the fighting. As for the end of April 90% of the staff are comparatively safe.
We will continue to produce and supply effective biological solutions for farmers in Europe and around the world!
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