From 14 to 15 November 2019, the 2019 Ag Formulation & Application Technology Congress (FAT2019) was successfully held in Hangzhou, China, as hosted by AgroPages with the theme of “market-driven innovation and technology-based efficiency”. The purpose of the congress is to follow up the latest industry status and its future prospects meanwhile to better understand formulation technology and applications at home and abroad, aiming at promotion of exchange and cooperation so as to propel integrated development of formulation technology and applications at home and abroad. The congress has attracted presence of over 300 delegates of over 160 companies from more than 20 countries.
Over the years, most of the international high-end agricultural technology exchanges have taken place in developed regions such as Europe and the United States. It is the first time that AgroPages managed to organize such an international forum in China covering technology, application and marketing, in hopes that through the exchange and discussion at the congress, new ideas of development, new ideas of upgrading can be presented while business partnership being established.
Acceleration of the transformation and upgrading of formulation technology, as driven by market demand
Yang Leng, Leading Expert from Shanghai Pesticide Research Institute (SPRI), has analyzed the latest agrochemical formulation trend in China from the perspectives of marketing, regulation and technical development using detailed data. Looking at the number of Chinese pesticide enterprises, the number of product registrations and the market demand at home and abroad, Professor Leng pointed out the future development trends of China's formulation industry, which are the following: Firstly, it is necessary to increase the proportion of export of formulations to develop the international market. Secondly, the formulation products of multinational companies have already entered the domestic market, and the domestic market has actually become part of the world pesticide market. Thirdly, both domestic market and international market require formulation producers to make rapid improvement in respect of product quality, standard, process, R & D, operation and management so as to catch up with the international advanced quality level, as there is no other way out.
From laws and regulations perspective, how can we expect innovations from enterprises? Professor Leng believes that the most stringent environmental compliance regulation and work safety laws and regulations as well as the new pesticide administration policies that are being implemented in China have not only brought unprecedented pressure to pesticide companies but have also given a clear direction to the development of formulation manufacturers, which can be summed up in two words: safety and reduction.
From the formulations technical point of view, Professor Leng said that the world’s development of pesticide formulation technology has gone through three stages: the first-generation conventional formulation technology (in around 1950s); the second-generation environment-friendly formulation technology (since early 1970s, up to today); the third-generation green and ecological formulation technology (beginning from around 2005, currently still under expedition). The development trend of the third-generation pesticide formulation technology: 1) Objective: to develop green / ecological / safe pesticide formulation technology; 2) Idea: to change from the past research concept based on dispersion / wetting / stability toward research and development of pesticide delivery-based technology, which requires development of new delivery technology; 3) Focus: to switch from research and development of novel formulation toward research and development of optimization of composition; 4) Combination: to combine high and new technology, introduce new materials and new technical achievements, and carry out multi-disciplinary cooperation covering membrane technology, nano material technology and digital control technology; 5) Evaluation: to include risk evaluation in the safety management system; 6) Structure: to conduct research and development aiming at improvement of performance of formulations such as enhancement of efficacy, low VOC, control of release, drifting and leaching.
In the 10 years between 2008 and 2018, the Chinese pesticide formulation industry has developed into a fast track. The proportion of environment-friendly novel formulations reached 24.66% in 2012, which continued to rise up to 45.68% by the end of 2018. The future development trend of pesticide formulations in China is going to be reflected in the following three directions: 1) Product development direction: green, safe, efficient and accurate; 2) Formulation technology development direction: high conductivity, low volatility (VOC), low leaching, drifting control and smart release; 3) Product structure adjustment direction: (a) development of high solvent-containing formulations will be restricted; (b) low VOC and dust-free pesticide formulation will develop more quickly; (c) pesticide formulation structural adjustment will speed up.
In addition, Professor Leng briefed several formulation technologies which will become hot topics of research and development in the future, including: research of new formulation of green emulsifiable concentrate, research of "Chinese style" aerial application-oriented formulations, controlled release of formulation, nanopesticide technology and the living microbial pesticide formulation technology.
As regards to production of formulation, it is necessary to eliminate the small and decentralized workshops while integrating artificial intelligence based on the popularized process and automatic production pattern, which is the general trend of Chinese pesticide formulation development. This is also the only way to cope with the fierce market competition, strict environmental compliance regulation and work safety requirement.
Wei Zhang, Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals Ministry of Agriculture, China, analyzed the impacts on the industry after the promulgation and implementation of the new pesticide administration regulations. The impacts include the acceleration of corporate mergers, the sudden drop in the number of pesticide registrations, the adjustment of product structure, the improvement of individualization of product, the diversification of formulations and functions. What is the new phenomenon of pesticide registration in 2019? Firstly, the number of registrations decreased drastically; Secondly, the number of biopesticide registrations became larger than that of chemical pesticides for the first time; Thirdly, the registered varieties were mainly next to new pesticides; Fourthly, the formulation products were more individualized (variety, formulation type, function); Fifthly, the success rate of review of pesticide was at lower side.
In the process of pesticide registration, attentions need to be paid to the following aspects: product category matching to data, the occurrence of identical or similar formulation, registration-related trials, pesticide name and formulation, contents and formula, risk assessment; biopesticide, production licensing related to pesticide registration and the change of registration owner. Moreover, Zhang Wei made an in-depth analysis of the above and proposed solutions accordingly.
Furthermore, Zhang Wei talked about the development trend of China's agrochemical industry in the years ahead, as well as the industry practices which require close attention in the near future, which are 1) the aerial application and application-oriented safety management; 2) the tank mix adjuvant and reduction of use of pesticide; 3) the role of insect pheromone in reduction of use of pesticide and in disease control; 4) soil treatment agent and seed treatment technology used in crop health management; 5) nanopesticide.
According to Dr. Roy Chen, Former Formulation Team Leader at ADAMA US, the future development of pesticide formulations will not only focus on development of new active molecules but will also focus on development of more differentiated formulation products to meet different market needs.
Regarding development of formulations, Roy shared a very practical statistical method of "design of experiment" (DOE), which is a mature systematic method to develop high-quality formulations. Additionally, digitalization has penetrated into all fields of production and life. Through digitalization technology, not only normal formulation operation can be simulated, but also unimaginable formulation accidents can be simulated to ensure the work safety of formulation production. In pesticide application, it is believed that in the near future, pesticide spraying will become more intelligent, where agricultural robot in modern farm is expected to conduct the spraying of pesticide.
Focusing on latest development of formulation and application technique to give new impetus to industry development of the industry
Nouryon provides the global market with the necessary chemicals for production of daily articles, being an expert in essential chemicals, whose products play an important role in people’s daily life. In provision of agricultural solutions, the company is able to design and provide optimized solutions according to the needs of customers, covering formulation, provision of expertise and technical services. The global supply chain of Nouryon enables fulfillment of all local needs worldwide.
Wayne Chen, Formulation Technical Director at Nouryon Asia Pacific, said that as a prime adjuvant supplier, the long-acting adjuvant Adsee series launched by Nouryon have included a number of solutions to the problem of spray loss. The company's multi-functional polymer dispersant Agrilan ® series can mix with a variety of formulations, thus saving time and energy to the benefit of improved economic efficiency. Among them, Agrilan ® 1028 helps to improve the mixing and the compatibility of pesticide when mixing with fertilizer. Agrilan ® 755 solves the most complex dispersant problem in water-based suspension, being capable of preventing crystallization, promoting emulsification and stability of oil drop, and meanwhile can be used in oil suspensions in the stable solvent system.
With the ongoing sustainable agricultural development and the increasingly strict environmental compliance regulation all over the world, the green, safe and environment-friendly new adjuvants have become appealing. To cope with the new situation, Evonik has developed its new environment-friendly synergist series in support of development of synergist formulation. These new environment-friendly adjuvants help to achieve biodegradation, production using renewable resources and the production of green products. In her presentation, Helen Gu, Ph.D., Regional Product Line Manager, Surface Technologies at Evonik, shared with participant the information on three types of novel sustainable agrochemical transport adjuvant techniques developed by the company, including biodegradable organosilicon (BREAK-THRU® S 301, BREAK-THRU® SD 260 and BREAK-GARD® IR 100), biological polyglycerol ester (BREAK-THRU® SP 133) and the pure natural sophorolipid surfactant (BREAK-THRU® SP 133).
According to Dr. Lu Wei, Industrial Solutions, Asia Pacific, Dow Chemical, oil dispersion (OD) formulation is an emerging formulation in Ag industry, which is claimed as environmental friendly, better pesticide efficacy than water-based formulation. However, It is well known that the OD formulation is a complex system, even for adjuvants, including wetting agents, emulsifiers, dispersants and thickeners. If all of the factors are considered together in the design of experiments, it will generate a huge amount of experiments and heavy workload. In order to accelerate product development progress, Lego unit approach was utilized to reduce design parameter. In addition, Dow Chemical has used the High throughput platform, which could prepare a large amount of formulations in short time, facilitating to performance comparison and formulation optimization. At present, Dow Chemical has established a complete adjuvant development process, formulation preparation and performance evaluation system. The oil suspension-oriented adjuvant POWERBLOXTM OD developed by Dow Chemical is now released to market, which will be a dedicated adjuvant for high-performance oil suspension, which helps customers to solve their long-existing problems.
Furthermore, in view of the problems of the film-forming agent, which is one of the key composition of seed treatment suspension agent, Dow Chemical has developed its safe polymer dispersant POWERBLOXTM Filmer - 17 film-forming agent.
Justin Qiu, Director of Formulation Engineering at Syngenta Asia Pacific, has been employed in Syngenta for long years, with a rich experience in formulation development and manufacture. At the conference, he stressed the challenges in the course of development and production of formulations, with proposed solutions, as well as the latest engineering technology of Syngenta.
As known to all, digital tools play an increasingly important role in formulation development and production process. Syngenta has always maintained a leading position in this field with its strong innovation capacity. In the process of industrial design, before the launch of production lines, Syngenta will use the VR technique to conduct a prior simulation of operator, material, information and manufacturing process. This gives a visual display of the workshop, production line, product sample and the whole production process to the conveniences of manufacture and design evaluation, which reduced greatly the period of time of product development.
Dr. James Qin, Head of Technologies at SINVOCHEM, shared his experience and method in respect of control of drifting, improvement of spray quality, increase of droplet deposition, enhancement of absorption and translocation of active ingredients in plants, as well as the adjuvant series developed via relevant technologies, together with their superior product performance shown in practical applications. Moreover, Dr. Qin emphasized the serval orientations worthy of further investigation: relationship between in-house evaluation and application scenarios, for improved efficiency in formulation development; interaction between surfactant and AI for improved translocation; relationship between delivery of AIs and interfacial properties induced by ultra-fine AIs; structure design and preparation of controllable release microcapsules based on application scenarios.
Jing Yu Chou, R&D Director at Shengyang Sinochem Agrochemicals R&D Co., Ltd., analyzed the research difficulties and application of seed treatment formulation technique. In recent years, the percentage of seed treatment agents in the domestic and international pesticide market has been increasing constantly, which represents a rapid growth of the product.
There are also some problems behind the rapid growth, such as the issues of technical standards, physical stability, application evaluation and study, safety research, formulation refining, process refining, root health and introduction of compound. To solve these problems, Dr. Chou has put forward specific solutions based on his long-year research and practicing experience.
Xuan Zhou Qian, President at Yinnong Technology, in his special report, gives a presentation to Yinnong’s research and development effort and product quality assurance aiming at production of high-efficient and environment-friendly pesticide products.
Yinnong Technology has established a number of "models" for pesticide formulation industry, of which the most outstanding one lies on the first DCS system adopted among the industry for formulation production. At the same time, Yinnong Technology is the first and exclusive enterprise in China to adopt the single line production mode, where one production line only produces one pesticide variety without switching to production of other pesticides in the course of production, thus making its product comparable to imported products. Yinnong Technology is the first enterprise in China to have a code system in place, which puts production, sales and management all under an IT system, where products can be traced with the available transfer of big data. In 2018, the first "dark factory" in China was put into production in Yinnong, which is fully automatic in an unmanned operation. This kicked off smart manufacture in Chinese pesticide industry.
Looking into the future, Yinnong Technology is expecting to lead the Chinese pesticide industry to move forward towards manufacture of high-end pesticides, being fully prepared to have in-depth and extensive cooperation with more enterprises in manufacture of more cost-effective and competitive products of superior quality. The future strategic objective of Yinnong Technology is to gain further recognition from international market of its research achievements so as to open up a new page in development of international pesticide market.
Lue Tao Fang, Technical Engineer of Agrochemical Department at Microspectrum Technology, presented to participants the main business and advantages of its company in the field of agrochemical industry. As for agrochemical business, the company provides the following services: full analysis of formulations, formulation development, consultancy and environmental monitor of agrochemical enterprises.
As of October 2018, the company employs more than 600 technical engineers and is possession of 250 sets of large-scale precision instruments, with one million spectral data items. The lab of the company is accredited to CNAS and CMA qualification and has been awarded the honors such as “high-tech enterprise”, “service platform of national medium and small enterprises” and “little giant science and technology enterprise of Shanghai”. The company has set up business relationship with more than 50,000 customers including top 500 enterprises. The service of the company covers Chinese market and a number of overseas market.
To explore Chinese aerial application business opportunities in face of challenges
After 10-year exploration, UAV plant protection has moved into a new stage, which is however facing lots of challenges in the course of its rapid development. Xiong Kui He, Leading Expert from Plant Protection UAV International Standards Committee, pointed out that there is currently an insufficiency of special pesticide formulations which fit aerial application in China. Therefore, research of special pesticide formulations, such as anti-drift and anti-evaporation formulations, needs to be enhanced. Meanwhile, in the course of aerial applications, anti-drift, anti-evaporation, pro-deposition, pro-adhesion, pro-absorption and versatile aerial application-oriented adjuvants can be screened out. At present, the spraying technique in China is still at relatively a lower technical level. Some problems exist on UAV applications, such as an uneven distribution of droplets, drifting of droplets and the leakage caused by insufficient accuracy. In addition, Professor He emphasized that UAV capacity is not the main problem. The problem lies on the quality of application operation and the effect of control, duration and reliability of application as well as the pollution of pesticide drifting to the environment and the risk of pesticide damage to sensitive crops. These issues require close attentions, which is the big challenge to aerial application development. In consideration of the novelty and complexity of UAV technology, the priority of research and development of plant protection UAV should be given to the spray system and the spraying technique at low altitude and low volume. Furthermore, the Chinese national technical standard of plant protection UAV is seriously falling behind the R & D of machineries. What needs to be urgently formulated is a technical standard to provide reliable guidance on aerial application parameters under different weather and ground conditions, as well as to guide environmental impact assessment.
Zhi Chao Han, Agro Lab Manager, Center of Research & Innovation, Shanghai, Solvay, explained Solvay’s tank mix formulation and applications in UAV spray. Solvay's agrochemical business is focused on formulation adjuvant, tank mix adjuvant, fertilizer synergism, seed treatment and soil water management. Solvay classifies its tank-mix adjuvant into two categories: activator adjuvants and utility adjuvants. Among them, the activator adjuvants can promote and improve the activity of pesticide’s active ingredients, which has the functions of moistening, spreading, rain fastness, penetration and moisture retention. The utility adjuvants can improve the physiochemical property of spray, being divided to different categories such as compatible regulating adjuvant, foam marker adjuvant, antifoaming adjuvant, anti-drift adjuvant, water conditioning adjuvant.
Natural guar modified polymer is the core technology of Solvay’s adjuvant, which is an accumulation of decades of research and production experience worldwide. Up to now, six series of guar-based tank mix adjuvant incorporating anti-drift and synergism have been developed, of which guar-based anti-drift products play a decisive role in solving the problem existing on the complex pesticide spraying process.
In China, tank mix adjuvant has been always concentrated on activator adjuvants, but the utility tank mix is expected to grow with the development of UAV plant protection. Solvay's tank mix adjuvant portfolio developed in China mainly includes mineral oil activator adjuvants, cotton defoliation adjuvant, vegetation oil activator adjuvants and special activator surfactant.
Professor & Doctor Zi Yong Zhang, Director of Nanoscience Research Institute and Chief scientist at Nanjing Scienx Ecotechnology Co Ltd., shares his idea on the concept, advantage, type, nanopesticide technology of Shansi and their integration with aerial applications. Due to the high efficiency, stability, pollution free and high safety advantages, nanopesticide has attracted close attention and been developed extensively. In 2019, nanopesticide was ranked by IUPAC to be the first of the “top ten new chemical technologies” that will change the world by IUPAC. In terms of type, nanopesticide can be divided into three categories: 1) nanopesticide for improvement of apparent solubility of water; 2) nanopesticide for protection of the active ingredients using nanocarriers; 3) nano pesticide of nanometals or nanometal oxide.
Why is an integration of nano pesticide and aerial application technology the best choice? According to Professor Zhang, nanopesticide can fulfill farmer’s needs of multi-target control to solve the problem existing on UAV plant protection. The integration of the two strengthens the respective advantages: the “high efficiency” advantage of nanopesticide, which can significantly reduce the use of pesticide; UAV plant protection application has the features of high work efficiency, high adaptability, high water-saving and pesticide utilization rate, high pesticide concentration and high deposition, which can improve the overall utilization level of pesticide.
Nanjing Scienx Ecotechnology is currently the only Chinese enterprise with independent intellectual property rights of nanopesticide, having achieved industrialization of nanopesticide technology. The created nanopesticide technology developed by Shansi includes: nanopesticide of increased apparent solubility via solvent-free process, nanopesticide of supported spherical particles, nanopesticide of binary and multi-component, combo technology for special formulations dedicated to UAV plant protection.
Xiang (Sam) Zhu, Formulation Technical Director at Corteva , in his presentation, shared the information on the formulation development trend and application technology, the challenges to the plant protection using UAVs as well as the exploration and practices of Corteva Agriscience in this field. Sam Zhu holds the view that the main factors to be considered in formulation design include: formulation parameters, customer needs, laws and regulations, policies, efficiency of environmental compliance action. In all aspects, either from technology, regulation and market demand, the development of modern pesticide formulation is facing severe challenges. Particularly, in China, pesticide application technology is still dominated by back-pack spraying (70%), followed by machinery spraying (20%), whilst UAV spraying accounts for only 5%.
In the UAV application, Corteva Agriscience has made a lot of explorations and attempts, through the use of formulation technology, to control the drift of pesticide via optimized design of nozzle and equipment component development.
Adriano Oliveira, Development Manager at Oxiteno, gave an introduction to the relevant regulations and policies in major countries in the world, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Europe, China, Australia, Japan and South Korea with respect to UAV plant protection, as well as the demand and development trend of aerial application-oriented formulation products. Adriano Oliveira stressed the outstanding performance of the tank mix adjuvants released by Oxiteno, which include SURFOM DRT 8575 (anti drift agent), SURFOM MIX 8251 (solubilizer), SURFOM ADJ 8874 (spreading agent), SURFOM ADJI 8872 (penetrant), SURFOM ADJI 8860 (adhesion agent) and SURFOM ADJ 8872 (penetrant). Adriano Oliveira disclosed that the company is currently working with China Agricultural University to test the applications of the concerned products in the field of UAV plant protection.
Jie Liu, Secretary-General of Specialization of Crops diseases and Insect Pests Prevention Association of Hunan province, China, used detailed data to illustrate the rapid development of UAV plant protection applications in China. In 2019, the possessing capacity of plant protection UAV reached 50,000 units, operation area rose to 700 million Mu (46.7 million Ha), single UAV unit operation area exceeded 15,000 Mu (1,000 Ha) and repeat UAV buyer increased from 20% to 30%. However, adjuvants consumed by UAV spraying covered only 150 million Mu (10 million Ha), formulations designated to UAV spraying was valued at about Yuan 500 million, which indicates that a great potential is yet to come.
Speaking of the profit model, Professor Liu, with his years of exploration and practice, holds that it is difficult to generate profits only by the aerial application service, saying that the sustainable development of UAV plant protection in the future will be like a kind of continuous process of development which will constantly move forward in the following manner: aerial application → formulation + aerial application → agricultural materials + aerial application → agricultural service + aerial application → digital agriculture + aerial application, which will be a continued evolution process. Professor Liu believes that the highest stage of agricultural development in the future will be a stage when agricultural information technology is highly integrated with finance and insurance.
Professional agrochemical exchange platform to promote win-win cooperation
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