″The most important trend is the coexistence of biologicals with chemical products where appropriate, creating formulations that allow farmers to enjoy the benefits of both so that they gain effective and environmentally friendly crop protection. These combined solutions support the principle of Integrated Pest Management, and often can be a more effective pest control method than biologicals alone, while still reducing the use of chemicals,″ said Alex Mills, Head of Global Fungicides at ADAMA in a recent interview with AgroPages.
He also shared his views on the drivers and challenges of biologicals; the regulatory landscape of biologicals; ADAMA’s biological lines and relevant facilities & capabilities, as well as the future development trend of biologicals etc.
Head of Global Fungicides at ADAMA
Could you describe the market landscape of the biological market? What are the drivers, challenges, and trends of the development of biologicals?
There are several growth drivers for biologicals, including consumer desires, policies, regulatory enforcement of new regulations on sustainability, fewer chemical options, and resistance management, but also farmer knowledge, which will drive biological adoption.
Double-digit growth rates of biologicals are expected, with some projections of even up to 17%, compared to chemical growth, which is expected to be 2-3% on a global level, but with significant regional differences.
Consumers are increasingly seeking more sustainable food sources, that can be obtained by the integration of different crop protection strategies. Incorporating biologicals alongside traditional crop protection products can offer consumers the sustainable produce they desire.
The growing interest in regenerative agriculture is another key driver of the biological market. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that aims to improve soil health, reduce erosion, and increase biodiversity. Biologicals play a vital role in regenerative agriculture, as they can help to improve soil fertility, boost plant immunity, and reduce the need for chemical inputs.
Many governments around the world are also supporting the adoption of biologicals through their regulatory processes, for example, Brazil and the US. This is due to the many benefits that biologicals offer, including reduced environmental impact, and improved food safety.
One pressing challenge is the limited shelf life of many biological products. Many contain live fungi or bacterial structures which have very limited shelf lives. As a result, they require very specific formulation capabilities that enable stability. Over the past years ADAMA has developed significant expertise in formulation, introducing innovative technologies to the market, some of which address this challenge. Additionally, some biological products need also to be maintained at constant temperature almost until the moment of application, requiring a dedicated refrigeration chain that can create some logistical complexity. There are already several new products coming from different innovative technologies, working on these directions.
Developing biologicals products may allow farmers to grow their crops safely and effectively, using the right mix between conventional and biological solutions. Economical, biological, and environmental sustainability are some of the main drivers leading this wave of innovation. Researchers and industry players are actively working to address these challenges, and the market for biologicals is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years.
Could you talk about the regulatory landscape of biologicals in major regions/key countries worldwide? What impact do these regulations have on your company’s business?
The regulatory landscape for biologicals varies from country to country. In some countries, such as Brazil and the US, the regulatory process is relatively quick and easy to bring a product to market. In other countries, for example in Europe and China, the regulatory process may take several years, similar to the time frames for chemical products.
Currently, in the EU, biological products are evaluated like chemicals when they are not micro-organisms or viruses. Although some guidance is available for plant extracts and semio-chemicals, many biological products contain biochemicals for which no guidance exists in the EU, while available in many other countries of the world.
Despite these challenges, the growing demand for biological products is driving companies to invest in research and development and to navigate the regulatory landscape in order to bring new products to market.
At ADAMA, we carefully consider the regulatory requirements in each market before we decide to develop, register, and launch a new product. Our evaluation is mainly driven by farmers’ needs in the different geographic areas.
Could you give us an overview of your company's biologicals and their special features, application situations? Could you share some novel approaches to production and formulation of biologicals?
Over recent decades, ADAMA has developed a profound expertise in formulation, introducing many innovative formulation technologies to improve traditional agrochemical products. We've expanded our knowledge into the realm of biologicals, developing our own biological formulation capabilities, particularly for biostimulants. Furthermore, we collaborate with partners to create biopesticide formulations while leveraging our formulation mastery to create unique biosolutions.
Our patent-protected biostimulant formulations are designed to keep the active ingredients stable, which means they have a longer shelf life. We have a lot of experience stabilizing conventional active ingredients in formulations, and we have used this experience to develop innovative formulations for biostimulants.
In recent years, we launched or expanded the use of many biological products, these include:
ACTAVAN®, a biofungicide based on plant extracts that stimulates the plant's immune system to effectively prevent fruit rot in crops such as grapes, berries, and certain vegetables, while also improving their quality. In addition, ACTAVAN® increases the sugar content, peel firmness, size, and weight of the berries, also reducing fruit splitting. Additionally, unlike many other fungicides, there is no pre-harvest interval for ACTAVAN®, which gives farmers more freedom to plan crop treatment schedules. ACTAVAN® was first launched in Peru in 2023 and is now expanding globally to additional markets.
ExelGrow® / ExpertGrow®, approved for use in organic agriculture, ExelGrow® / ExpertGrow® is a biostimulant based on seaweed extract, produced through the unique formulation technology of double fermentation, which ensures high stability during storage. The product enhances the plants’ resistance to stress, stimulates growth processes, and offers better fertilization and fruiting and utilization of nutrients, all of which lead to better yield. ExelGrow® / ExpertGrow® initially was mainly used in Latin America, and we initiated its global expansion in 2022, aiming at Europe and APAC.
N-Boost™ is a foliar supplement, whose formulation helps increase nitrogen absorption and utilization and reduces plant stress in adverse weather conditions, which in turn improves growth and performance. It helps in the translocation of nutrients, and enhances the plants’ photosynthesis process, leading to improved yield. N-Boost™ initially has been sold in several Central American countries and China and will be launched in additional countries in the coming years.
Charge™ is a biofungicide / biostimulant based on chitosan, a sugar derived from the shells of shrimp, targeted for sugar beet, cereals, and other crops. It activates plants’ self-defense system, enabling them to sustain attacks by pathogens. Relevant for both organic and integrated crop management, Charge™ leaves no residue, has no post-harvest interval limitations, and is free of allergenic proteins. Charge™ was introduced in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and France in 2022, and we plan to expand into several additional European countries in the coming years.
Could you introduce the overview of biological R&D, production and application of your company and relevant facilities & capabilities? What's the biggest challenges during above process?
In addition to our conventional facilities, we have a number of state-of-the-art facilities and capabilities that support our biological R&D, production, and application activities, including research and development laboratories, pilot plants, commercial-scale manufacturing facilities, and a global network of sales and marketing offices. ADAMA is one of the few crop protection companies that established a dedicated biological facility in Chile in 2015, that covers R&D, manufacturing and distribution in its 7,000 square feet of space. Additionally, in 2021, we established a dedicated Bio Sustainable Solutions Development team, and in 2022, we further expanded the number of personnel dedicated to biologicals and committed to a global biologicals strategy.
The biggest hurdle we face in the development and manufacturing of biologicals is the need to develop new and innovative formulation technologies to address the unique challenges of biological products. We are also working to scale up the production of biological products to meet the growing demand and to educate farmers and growers about the benefits of biological products and how to use them effectively. To better meet the market demand, in 2022, ADAMA acquired AgriNova New Zealand Ltd. and is currently integrating its biological plant nutrition and plant growth regulators into the product portfolio. In the past year, ADAMA has been also working on several licensing collaborations in various areas of the biological sector, and we have close about 20 such partnerships. These are with a broad range of organizations including R&D institutions, universities and commercial start-up companies.
What are the considerations for farmers/growers to use biologicals? How does your company educate growers and farmers on the use of biologicals?
Farmers consider several features with regard to biologicals, such as crop safety, the need to increase yield, and how to overcome the reduced efficacy of conventional chemistry. ADAMA is currently working on many areas to promote the use of biologicals, including:
Compatibility: Biological products should be compatible with the most widely used crop protection products and fertilizers
Application: Biological products need to fit establish application methods to minimize additional operational complexity
Efficacy: There is a need to develop biological products that do not compromise efficacy against the target pests and diseases
ADAMA is working with farmers to educate them on the use of biologicals through a variety of channels, including field trials, training programs, and technical support. We also work with distributors and consultants to educate farmers on the use of our biological products.
We also prioritize listening to the needs of farmers. Continuous evaluation of market demands and the observation of emerging trends, which can lead to significant, enduring market changes, are integral to our approach. This active engagement is an inherent part of our product development and launch process, guaranteeing our strong connection with farmers and essential stakeholders, particularly when introducing innovative products like biologicals.
What kind of biologicals do you think are the most promising? What do you feel could be the next breakthrough innovation?
The landscape of crop protection is experiencing a profound transformation leading to a blending of chemical and biological solutions. Instead of solely relying on conventional methods or making a radical departure and moving completely to biological ones, the industry is transitioning to integrated approaches. Historically, crop protection has been driven by major breakthroughs addressing broad-based market needs. However, as the market increasingly adopts biologicals to complement traditional crop protection, the changes appear more incremental. Rather than wide adoption of a single solution, the trend is towards tailored solutions targeting specific diseases and crops. In essence, we are witnessing a paradigm shift where the future will likely see biologicals coexisting seamlessly with conventional methods, catering to the nuanced needs of farmers and growers.
We believe that the next wave of valuable biological innovation is likely to stem from a dynamic synergy between startups and academia. Both are cultivating a new generation of agriculture and science professionals who emphasize sustainability. In our effort to enhance our biologicals portfolio and advance our pipeline, we maintain strong ties with these pioneering organizations. We consistently evaluate opportunities for investment in the products, research, and development activities of startup companies.
What’s the future development trend of biologicals (e.g., products, market, services, development opportunities)?
The future development trend of biologicals is highly promising. There is a strong consumer and market need that to which we maintain our commitment and for which we continue to develop solutions.
The most important trend is the coexistence of biologicals with chemical products where appropriate, creating formulations that allow farmers to enjoy the benefits of both so that they gain effective and environmentally friendly crop protection. These combined solutions support the principle of Integrated Pest Management, and often can be a more effective pest control method than biologicals alone, while still reducing the use of chemicals.
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