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NPP leader talks about global biologicals markets and UPL’s development for biosolutionsqrcode

Mar. 18, 2024

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Mar. 18, 2024

″The past year has been an inspiring and eventful period, not just for UPL Corporation Ltd. (UPL Corp)’s Natural Plant Protection (NPP) business unit, but for the whole biosolutions space. The biologicals industry is growing at an exponential rate – fuelled by consumer demand, regulatory developments, and a growing focus on the sustainability of food production and supply. We are proud to be at the forefront of this movement,″ says Ezio Costa, NPP Business Unit Leader.

He talks more about UPL Corp’s biologicals business and global biologicals markets in this interview.


What's news from UPL Corp’s NPP business unit?

In the last year, we have further expanded our portfolio of biosolutions, bringing to market new products Nimaxxa®, Tracker®, Yukon®, Sinala®, Oleora®, and Heligen® which are changing the game for growers and enabling them to control a range of pests and other threats effectively. 

To advance our innovation pipeline, we opened a new state-of-the-art Global NPP Research Center in Mexico. The modern greenhouse, equipped with specialised tools, will be a hub for experienced researchers, fostering collaborations with local and international universities and research centres, and serve as a platform for sustainable agricultural knowledge and solutions. In addition, UPL Corp. partnered with Radicle Growth to launch ‘The Radicle Natural Plant Protection (NPP) Challenge by UPL’ which will invest US$1.75M in start-up companies from around the world that are advancing biosolutions. We are confident that these significant R&D investments will strengthen our ongoing technological development as we foster new solutions to shape the future of farming.  

Additionally, we have made concerted efforts to increase accessibility to our solutions and reach more growers – enabling even more hectares worldwide to be treated effectively and sustainably.

How long has UPL Corp’s been distributing biologicals? How has the market changed in that time?

UPL Corp has been investing in developing, scaling, and bringing to market biosolutions for over two decades. In 2021, UPL Corp launched Natural Plant Protection (NPP), a dedicated business unit bringing together various biosolutions platforms into a standalone platform. This decision was influenced by the growing biologicals space, but primarily driven by our long-standing commitment to empowering growers with the tools they need to shape a sustainable food future.  

Through this move we combined the capabilities, expertise and portfolios into one unit, better focussing our efforts and strengthening our farmer offering. As a result, NPP has emerged as a leading provider of biosolutions with holistic inputs that support global growers to overcome challenges head on, and grow healthy, nutritious, and profitable crops.  

The global biostimulant market has been growing at an impressive rate of 12-15% worldwide. The current market of ~$3.2 B is expected to double by 2028. Europe leads the market with ~40% share and the growth is led by a high focus on sustainability in food production.

In the last decade alone, we have seen a multi-fold increase in companies and financial institutions participating in plant stimulation, stress management, bio-fertility, nutrient use efficiency and biological seed treatment. The majority of them introduce products or services which ensure safety, growth, and promise of better crop quality and yield. 

We’re also seeing growers more readily embrace new technologies; which is fantastic to see. More farmers are showing willingness to try innovative solutions, to meet their evolving challenges; so that they can meet their production and output targets, whilst also safeguarding their farm and soil health for future generations. 

Do you see significant differences in biologicals demand or application across geographic regions you serve?

We are seeing a positive trajectory for biosolutions globally with an estimated annual increase of 10-12%. More farmers are incorporating biologicals into their spray programs for biocontrol and plant & soil health. Currently 1 out of 5 farmers worldwide is using biosolutions, with Brazil leading the way with over 50% adoption.

In Brazil, biocontrol is primarily used in row crops to improve yield, sustainability, and resistance management. In Europe, specialty crop adoption is driven by residue management, organic farming, yield increase, and sustainability. North America focuses on plant soil health through the use of biostimulants and biofertilizers. The highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for biosolutions is found in Asian countries.

Looking ahead, the growth of biosolutions in row crops will be a major driver. Biologicals play a crucial role in improving sustainability by enhancing efficacy in resistance management, soil health, reducing leaching, increasing nutrient use efficiency, and carbon sequestration.

One important factor influencing the speed of biocontrol adoption in row crops is the regulatory process. A comparison between Brazil and Europe reveals a significant difference in the time it takes for a product to be registered. In Brazil, it only takes one year for a biocontrol to be registered, whereas a new formulation of an existing active ingredient or strain can take up to five years, and registering the active ingredient itself can take 8-10 years. Brazil has streamlined its registration process for biocontrol products, making its biological market more competitive. As a result, it has become the leader in global biocontrol usage, particularly in row crops. I hope other countries follow suit in creating an environment conducive to getting proven innovations to market efficiently. 

What benefits do your biologicals bring to growers?

NPP provides growers with a portfolio of biosolutions to increase crop resilience and protection, improve nutrition and support soil health. 

Using cutting-edge development tested and proven at our various R&D facilities and on farm trials, NPP’s solutions range address a variety of issues caused by abiotic stress factors. NPP’s solutions enrich the soil structure by improving the microbiome and help the soil hold and release water as and when needed by the crop. Increasing the volume of the roots helps prevent wastage through nutrient and water leeching, helping crops reach their true biological potential.

At NPP, we believe in the power of small to make a significant difference – harnessing nature’s own microscopic technologies to create biological solutions that deliver win-wins for environmental protection, climate-change mitigation, and biodiversity, whilst advancing our food security efforts.

For instance, Zeba is our climate-smart granular natural solution which serves as a revolutionary yield enhancer, reducing plant stress days, increasing soil carbon levels, and accelerating plant growth to help plants reach their true biological potential. Zeba enables growers to actively manage moisture and nutrient levels to create optimal growing conditions regardless of climate. 

How has regulation or policy related to biologicals changed over recent years in positive or negative ways?

In recent years, the regulatory landscape for biologicals has experienced significant changes in many countries. New regulations have been introduced in various markets, with a particular focus on biocontrol and biostimulants.

Biocontrols have made remarkable progress, especially in Brazil, where new regulations have accelerated market access and stimulated positive innovation. In the United States, the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division (BPPD) has continuously evolved to address biologically based pesticides and emerging technologies, making dossier review more efficient. The European Union (EU) has implemented clarifications to its existing regulatory framework by publishing specific data requirements for micro-organisms and plant protection products containing micro-organisms, along with EU Commission Communications and Explanatory Notes.

Biostimulants have also experienced a significant regulatory advancement through the EU Fertilizing Products Regulation. This regulation provides a Conformity Assessment process that opens new market access to microbial and non-microbial plant biostimulants across all 27 Member States. Several countries, including Chile, Peru, Argentina, and India, have followed suit by implementing similar regulations.

While these regulatory developments are highly encouraging, certain limitations still hinder the smooth evaluation and authorization of biologicals. These include inconsistencies or inaccuracies within regulatory definitions and terminology, a lack of resources dedicated to biologicals within some regulatory agencies, contradictory measures among different countries regarding acceptance of living microbes, complex evaluation processes within the EU system with challenging requirements and slow renewal procedures. Additionally, there is difficulty in accepting a weight-of-evidence approach.

It is crucial that robust regulations are developed to create a user-friendly system while promoting an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach where biologicals play a pivotal role. 

What trends do you expect to shape the biologicals market over the next 5-10 years?

First of all, we expect the market to continue growing as farmers adopt biosolutions more and more alongside and in collaboration with conventional inputs. We have seen through our pioneering ProNutiva® program the incredible impact of a synergized approach which combines traditional crop protection products and biosolutions. The adaptable and bespoke ProNutiva® programs help crops reach their full potential – producing better yields, leaving less residue, improving grower profitability, and supporting sustainable agricultural practices.

The biological market continues to grow as a result of various factors. Firstly, word of mouth among farmers and distributors that, when used effectively, natural biosolutions can be as efficient as conventional inputs. Secondly, an increasing interest in adopting IPM methods - something our own ProNutiva® approach promotes. And thirdly, growing recognition that biosolutions are becoming more stable, more compatible with other inputs, and easier to apply, with longer shelf lives. 

There are numerous challenges facing growers including climate change, pests and disease, degrading soil health, water scarcity and economic insecurity. At the same time, the global demand for healthy, nutritious, and sustainable food is growing. Our NPP products and our ProNutiva® program are showing growers and consumers that a sustainable and secure food future is achievable. We are excited to execute our growth plan to reach more farmers at scale and bring to market more innovations.


Source: AgroNews


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