Víctor Quero has a long experience in the design and scale-up of agrochemical formulations, as well as in the development and validation of methods to evaluate the stability of products. In the past eight years, he has been involved in research and development projects related to nutritional products, bioactivators and biopesticides at Futureco Bioscience, and is the Head of the Formulation Unit at the company. In this interview with Víctor Quero, he shared his expeirence in bioformulation and showed succussful cases to us.
Could you tell us any innovation technologies in bioformulation R&D, production and application? What are the challenges and countermeasures during these processes?
Key technologies that have emerged in bioformulations certainly includes nanotechnology, microencapsulation, genetic engineering, and bioprocessing. These technologies have the potential to improve the delivery, efficacy, and shelf life of bioactive compounds, as well as reduce the time and cost of bioformulation. However, there are also several challenges associated with production, regulatory hurdles, scaling up, stability, application and cost, that are some of the key challenges that need to be addressed.
Microencapsulation for example involves enclosing bioactive compounds in a protective coating. This technology can protect bioactive compounds from degradation, increase their shelf life, and improve their delivery and efficacy. It can be achieved through a variety of techniques, including spray drying, coacervation, fluidized bed coating, Interfacial polymerization, extrusion, etc…. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the specific application. There are several challenges associated to this process though. Probably the most important one is about ensuring that the process does not negatively affect the bioactivity of the active substance or microorganism. The process of microencapsulation can involve harsh processing conditions such as high temperatures, which can potentially denature or degrade the active molecules. This can result in a loss of bioactivity and reduce the effectiveness of the product. Another challenge is achieving optimal release from the microcapsules: formulations need to release the active ingredient in a controlled and sustained manner to ensure maximum efficacy. However, if the microcapsules are too stable, the product may be released too slowly, reducing its effectiveness. On the other hand, if the microcapsules are too fragile, the product may be released too quickly, leading to a short-lived effect. We must also take into consideration the cost-effectiveness of the process. The use of microencapsulation can add significant costs to the formulation process, and this can impact the affordability of the final product. Therefore, it is essential to balance the benefits of microencapsulation with the costs involved.
At Futureco Bioscience, we have already included microencapsulation technology in our biocontrol pipeline, and for example, we are working on the development of new microencapsulated biological pesticides with enhanced competitiveness in the soil ecosystem. Moreover, a microencapsulated product, can improve the delivery and efficacy of the product itself, reducing the need for multiple applications and increasing its overall effectiveness in controlling plant-parasitic nematodes.
Are there any successful cases of developing bioformulations based on different scenarios and market needs. For example, how does your company improve stability and synergist for bioformulations?
The importance of stability and synergy in bioformulations cannot be overstated, as these factors are critical to achieving optimal performance and effectiveness in the field. Without stability, a bioformulation may degrade or lose potency before it can be effectively applied to the crops. Without synergy, the components of a bioformulation may not work together effectively, leading to reduced effectiveness or even negative interactions.
At Futureco Bioscience, we place a strong emphasis on stability and synergy in all our bioformulation development process. But it is not so simple, we understand that developing bioformulations that to achieve optimal performance and results we need to meet the specific requirements of a constantly evolving sector. As the head of the formulation department at
Futureco Bioscience, we work constantly to develop and to adapt new and innovative bioformulations that are tailored to meet the specific needs and challenges of the modern agricultural landscape. An example is precision agriculture and drone applications: we have developed a range of bioformulations that are optimized for reduced volumes of water, and that are designed to address the unique challenges presented by this type of application.
To this end, we employ cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art technology to develop bioformulations that are, apart from stable and synergic, optimized for particle size, phytotoxicity, solubility, wettability, and other key factors. By focusing on these areas, we are able to develop bioformulations that can be easily and effectively applied using drones with thin nozzles, while also ensuring effective coverage and preventing blockages and malfunctions.
Drone applications in fact, require adapting bioformulations to extremely reduced volumes of water. This presents several challenges for bioformulations, including solubility, phytotoxicity, particle size, and wettability. Consequently, Soluble Liquid (SL) formulations should be used instead of Soluble Concentrates (SC) or Wettable Powders (WP) to avoid issues with solubility and phytotoxicity. Additionally, particle size can be optimized to ensure that the bioformulation can be easily and effectively applied using drones with thin nozzles. Improving the wettability of the bioformulations can also be helpful in ensuring effective application.
By working closely with our customers to understand their specific needs and challenges and focusing on these key areas, at Futureco Bioscience we are developing bioformulations that meet unique requirements: in this case, they are better suited to precision agriculture and drone applications, and that can help improve crop yields and overall agricultural productivity in a precise manner, with state-of-the-art technology.
How do you see the value of adjuvant in bioformulation innovation? What are the criteria for selecting adjuvants?
Adjuvants are critical components in bioformulation innovation, particularly in the field of agricultural biopesticides. They play a vital role in enhancing the performance and efficacy of the active ingredient in the formulation. When selecting adjuvants, several criteria must be considered, including compatibility, mode of action and effectiveness in improving key properties such as stability and solubility, safety, regulatory approval and finally cost-effectiveness and ease of use, as these can have a significant impact on the overall value and viability of our formulations.
Let’s take as example microbial products: first of all, it is fundamental that the adjuvants selected for testing guarantees the physical-chemical conditions established for the formulations, and above all maintains the viability of the active ingredient. In order to maintain anhydrous conditions, Oil Dispersion formulations (OD) are a suitable option. In most cases, we would need rheological agents that will allow us to create a consistent structure and no watery dispersants to maintain the homogeneity of the bioformulation. To ensure then, optimal conditions for the application (in water) we’ll need to select and include in the bioformulation an emulsifying agent and a watery dispersant.
At Futureco Bioscience, we lead a team of formulation experts that work to identify and select the most appropriate adjuvants for use in our bioformulations. We conduct extensive testing to ensure that our adjuvants are effective and safe – we meet with the CIPAC guidelines for Collaborative Study Procedures for Assessment of Performance of Analytical Methods, for use on the target crop and environment. By combining advanced adjuvant technology with our innovative active ingredients, we can create effective and sustainable bioformulations that meet the challenges of modern agriculture.