″As the leaders in biologicals, it’s important to accelerate the biologicals market so that it can generate solutions that growers need because they are facing more challenges than ever before. Bayer’s depth of understanding comes not only from decades of experience in agriculture and biologicals, but also because we work in so many geographies, systems, and crops. With that understanding, we don’t look at biologicals in a vacuum; we see their roles in many cropping systems across the entire space,″ said Benoit Hartmann, R&D Head of Biologics at Bayer Crop Science in a recent interview with AgroPages.
He also shared his views on the drivers and challenges of biologicals; the regulatory landscape of biologicals; Bayer Crop Science’s biological lines and relevant facilities & capabilities, as well as the most promising biologicals etc.
Benoit Hartmann, R&D Head of Biologics at Bayer Crop Science
Could you describe the market landscape of the biological market? What are the drivers, challenges and trends of the development of biologicals?
Currently the biologicals market is growing and we expect to see that continue and accelerate. We expect our net sales from biologicals to increase at a significantly faster rate than the market, and have projected that we’ll be able to reach net sales of €1.5 billion by 2035. With the biologicals market on its way to a €30 billion overall value in 2035, we believe our understanding of the market, our regulatory expertise, and ability to work with leading partners in biological innovation is going to be critical to accomplishing that growth.
The massive growth that the industry is seeing in biologicals is the result of many factors converging all at once including growing capability, new products that are a fit for more crops, and consumer preferences for low- and no-residue foods.
Biologicals continue to gain capability and are growing into roles where many wouldn’t have expected to see them just a few years ago. We have many options for different types of operations that grow fruits and vegetables, but we also have biologicals that are a fit for row crops, where many less familiar with the biologicals market and developments wouldn’t have expected to see them. Our leading seeds portfolio is an opportunity for us to build on yield advantages by combining biologicals with traditional chemistry, and you see that with our Acceleron portfolio of seed treatment products that integrate B-360. On top of that, we are also working to solve some of the biggest row crop fertility issues by partnering with Ginkgo Bioworks in our nitrogen-fixation program.
There are challenges of course that we will have an opportunity to help growers to overcome. Many growers will be trying biological solutions in ways that they haven’t yet over the coming years. Ensuring they understand how to best utilize the products, but also ensuring that growers are aware of new and developing innovations that can fit with their operations will be an important trend moving forward.
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?
Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements for crop protection products and consumer preference for low- and no-residue food products comprise some of the major drivers we see for the growth in the biological products market. Navigating that regulatory landscape successfully based on decades of experience is one of the major capabilities that Bayer brings when we partner with innovators. Regardless of the regulatory landscape Bayer is committed to bringing safe, sustainable, and effective products to market because farmers around the world need them to feed the world.
Regardless of any one geography, the changes in demand across various markets and the evolution of the science behind biologicals necessitates an equally evolved and adequate regulatory framework that takes into account the cropping systems, consumer needs, as well as the realities of adopting innovations for agriculture while ensuring growers can continue to feed the world.
It’s also important to recognize that in markets that are more ready for a focus on biologicals, both in terms of geography and agronomic fit, we’re going to need systems of regulatory frameworks that reflect the unique nature of biological products and that allow consumers to access safe and sustainable biological products efficiently. There are real needs on farm especially in markets where previous chemical alternatives are no longer being allowed re-registration. It will be especially critical in those markets to provide alternatives capable of filling the gap before growers see significant impacts on their ability to feed their customers and the world.
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?
Bayer’s leading biologicals contains biocontrols and biostimulants across insecticides like FLiPPER, fungicides like Serenade, seed treatments like B-360 integrated into our Acceleron portfolio of products, and performance enhancers like our Ambition Aktivator and Ambition Core products. With this portfolio we were able to deliver €200 million in sales for 2022 and continue to manage the portfolio with expert life cycle management and formulation enhancements.
For example, Bayer’s Serenade new Serenade Soil Activ has continued to find new fits within different crops. By giving Serenade Soil Active an even higher concentration of its active ingredient it can be applied in furrow or via drip to protect roots. For crops like potatoes, we’re seeing 10% more premium class potatoes, a higher proportion of bigger potatoes, lower use of water per acre, and better skin finish with improved uniformity. Growers that can get results like this have an easy choice to make.
We are also continuing to build on our Vynyty line of pheromone-based products with the recent launch of Vynyty Tuta Press in Spain. Vynyty Tuta Press helps to stop male insects from locating females, preventing mating and controlling the pest population. This kind of narrowly-targeted pest-specific crop protection is an incredible new way to prevent damage to crops without impacting off-target insects.
Could you introduce the overview of biological R&D, production and application of Bayer Crop Science and relevant facilities & capabilities?
Over the past few years we have completely changed our approach to biologicals discovery by focusing on the ways that we can help to shape and grow the biologicals space in ways that ensure that more growers end up with safe, effective, and sustainable products they can trust while balancing the diverse and explosive developments we’re seeing in biologicals worldwide.
Biologicals are beginning to attract a lot of attention, not just from the market, but from researchers as well. We’re seeing new approaches, be it in botanicals, synthetic biology, semiochemicals or entirely novel approaches. Where Bayer can bring a lot of value to this is in being the partner of choice for those innovators. That means we can work to develop formulations for products that make them feasible for new crops; we can help partners scale their production; we can enhance discoveries by pairing them into other systems that complement their active ingredients to create synergies. In essence, we can help take products from discovery to farmers fields faster and more effectively because we can meet partners where they are and help them to go where they want to be.
Bayer believes that bringing our vision for biologicals to life will require bringing together leading innovators from across the world with diverse approaches and focuses. That includes distribution agreements to bring new products to growers globally by leveraging our expertise in regulatory compliance, formulation, manufacturing, and distribution.
But we are also actively leading in the development of biologicals through our strategic partnerships with Ginkgo Bioworks and Kimitec. These partners are working with Bayer to leverage our extensive understanding of farmer needs, opportunities, and market trends against their innovation platforms; a combination we believe will lead to greater and more diverse biological solutions for the future.
This diversity even extends to their innovation expertise. Ginkgo Bioworks is exploring synthetic biology approaches to bring nitrogen fixing microbes to farms at scale. Kimitec’s work with molecules derived from natural sources is an excellent complement to the work we’re doing with Ginkgo and takes a completely different approach. We’re really looking forward to what our work with these partners can bring to fields everywhere and actively seek out partners who have interesting biological tools and technologies for growers.
What are the considerations for farmers/growers to use biologicals? How does your company educate growers and farmers on the use of biologicals?
Biologicals continue to become more integrated into pest and disease management programs, and farmers are becoming more familiar with how to use them and where they fit into their residue, stewardship and application programs. The issues that remain aren’t necessarily that growers need education or that there is resistance to biologicals as a whole, it’s that the pace of development in biologicals is fast and growing.
That means that not only are growers faced with more and more options for their operation, but that they also need to know who they can trust. Bayer has earned the trust of growers as the #1 Trusted Brand in Biologicals, but we need to ensure that as new options become available, growers understand how to utilize those new tools. That’s where digital management tools like our ResiYou, MagicTrap and NemaTool programs can be important for continued and increasing success.
What kind of biologicals do you think are the most promising? What do you feel could be the next breakthrough innovation?
As the leaders in biologicals, it’s important to continue to shape the biologicals market so that it can generate solutions that growers need because they are facing more challenges than ever before. Bayer’s depth of understanding comes not only from decades of experience in agriculture and biologicals, but also because we work in so many geographies, systems, and crops. With that understanding, we don’t look at biologicals in a vacuum; we see their roles in many cropping systems across the entire space.
We see the market changes as a great opportunity to improve agriculture, making it a part of the solution to climate change. By reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that we currently rely on, we could make a big reduction in the climate impact of agriculture, but we can’t make those changes with current technology without risking global food security. Yield and footprint will be the balancing act of the future of agriculture, but there are paths ahead for us and for biologicals that may be the technologies to maintain that balance.
Nitrogen fixation is one of the most significant projects we are working on with Ginkgo Bioworks. If we can answer that challenge, then we can expect nitrogen fertilizer reductions of as much as 20-30 percent by allowing plants to fix nitrogen available from the atmosphere into a usable form. It’s the kind of work that gets us up in the morning because we want to see a world where that’s the new normal.
We think biologicals are a fit for many farms and crops, and are excited by the explosion in biologicals innovation over the past 15 years. That’s why we have shifted to an open innovation model at Bayer, where we shape the market with leading innovators and ensure that products reach millions globally instead of just thousands of growers.
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