Content of the report
Q1. What are the new challenges facing agrochemical formulation development, potential solutions and future trends?
Syngenta: Resistance of pathogens or pests to chemical agents is not a new issue facing the agrochemical industry but it is one that remains a key challenge for agrochemical formulation development. With resistance comes the continued need for identification of new active ingredients and subsequently the need to formulate them into usable products. All the simple molecules have been discovered, so the pipeline of new compounds is trending to be increasingly complex — higher molecular weight, more diverse chemical functionality and multiple chiral centers are not uncommon. This subsequently imparts additional complexity on both manufacture of the active ingredient and in producing formulations that exhibit the desirable biology, application and shelf-life characteristics.
In my opinion, the fundamental solutions haven’t and won’t change. It’s about application of sound scientific know-how to work around the challenge. Through industry-leading formulation science, Syngenta is able to offer some of the best and yet most complex products in the marketplace. Formulations containing five, six and even seven active components in a single premix are common in Syngenta’s product portfolio. These products provide the convenience and dose accuracy of a single premix with multiple modes of action, providing broad-spectrum control of pests. The technical hurdles of physically and chemically compatibilized multiple active ingredients are done during formulation development, to mitigate these issues occurring in the mix tank at application.
The responsibility to produce new products that meet and exceed stewardship performance standards is an additional formulation challenge, whether it be reducing spray drift for aerial or ground spray application, dust reduction for seed treatments or improved operator safety. As formulation chemists, we’re looking to utilize innovative surfactant and coating technology to build in or tank mix additives that benefit or sustain biological activity, whilst addressing environmental challenges and the safe use of pesticides.
BASF Crop Protection: Challenges in formulation development should be discussed in the context of product development and how customers experience our products.
What makes a good product? From a famer's perspective, a product should be robust, flexible to use, efficient and performing, cost competitive, convenient, safe and without residue concerns.
Developing robustness and flexibility in various weather conditions, such as rain, sun and wind, remain challenging for formulation development. To address these challenges, we focus on improvements in wash off, uptake, UV decomposition and off-target movements of active ingredients. Chemists develop polymeric stickers, surfactants, UV absorbers or drift reducing agents through proper formulation technology.
These improvements not only help a farmer run his operations profitably, but are also a crucial part of BASF’s sustainability strategy.
Other formulation trends are spurred by application constraints, such as low water volume or water quality, and from new application technologies, such as drones. Consequently, products must often be refined and adjusted so that in herent properties of the active ingredient, e.g. solubility and mixing compatibility, are managed effectively.
Arysta LifeScience: Modern agrochemical formulation development has faced significant challenges not only from a technical perspective, but also regulatory and market demands. The main challenges are:
The increasing demand for formulation quality, including the compatibility of multiple active ingredients in a single formulation and the controlled crystal growth of active ingredients.
The increasing regulatory pressures. Most regulatory authorities demand formulations that have minimal impact on the environment, which requires favorable ecotoxicity profiles with biodegradable additives, reduced use rate, and minimal pesticide residues on crops after spraying.
The cost-effectiveness of new formulations.
While it is costly to develop new pesticides, formulation innovation has become a means to address the above challenges. For future trends, formulation innovation should not be separated from the improvement in application technologies. Instead, application technologies, such as precision agriculture, will also play a key role in reducing chemical drift and using pesticides effectively.
Q2. What are the key factors in agrochemical formulation technology innovation? What initiatives did your company take to drive its innovation?
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Syngenta: Customer experience is a primary focus for development of any Syngenta product. To a large extent, this and responsible environmental stewardship is what drives our formulation technology innovation. Biological efficacy, application behavior and shelf-life stability are obviously core product performance attributes. Stewardship features associated with toxicological endpoints, such as residues, runoff and acute toxicity, are equally important to advance our understanding, and, subsequently, to continue to develop technology solutions to support the safe use of pesticides.
Within Formulation Development at Syngenta we look to leverage knowledge and external interactions across the organization. By partnering with our commercial teams, we’re able to coordinate visits of our development scientists with channel partners, retailers and growers to see and hear firsthand how products perform. With this, we gain further insight into understanding the challenges and performance improvement needs to enhance their experience and agronomic practices. Additionally, our development scientists work closely with product stewardship and regulatory teams to ensure foresight on regulatory and environmental concerns. This subsequently defines our technology innovation to provide step-change improvements for items like reducing dust-off for seed treatment or reducing spray drift through formulation or application technology enhancement.
BASF Crop Protection: Innovations in formulation technology are derived from novel physicochemical presentations of active ingredients. Combining agrochemical formulation know-how with technologies from other disciplines drives this innovative approach. At BASF, central research units such as Advanced Materials & Systems Research, Bioscience Research and Process Research & Chemical Engineering offer a variety of technologies, which we systematically link to crop protection formulation research and innovation projects. Using these resources, we derive new encapsulation concepts or polymeric solubility promoters for active ingredients. Our colleagues from Bioscience Research closely collaborate with formulation labs on biological crop protection projects to develop novel product solutions.
We also foster partnerships with universities and research companies to combine their expertize with our formulation capabilities.
Digital technologies are becoming an integral part of R&D, resulting in quick access to clean data and new imaging methods. These tools will speed up processes and enable new pathways for formulation innovation.
Arysta LifeScience: Formulation technology innovation should address the current and future technical challenges generated by technology, regulatory authorities and the market. An advanced delivery system and the adjuvant technology will be the key areas in formulation innovation through integration with precision agriculture technology.
Arysta LifeScience R&D has global footprints, including in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific. Our in-depth expertise covers agrochemical and bio solution formulations, seed treatment, and analytical capability to deliver customized solutions. The R&D teams are highly motivated and actively work on formulation innovations that meet increasingly stringent regulations and provide green and integrated solutions for growers.
Arysta LifeScience R&D actively works on formulation technology innovation that includes but is not limited to:
• Improved formulation quality with broad-spectrum control
• Enhanced biological efficacy by combining with application technology to improve grower yields
• Combatting herbicide-resistant biotypes with multiple modes of action(MoA) contained in a stable, fully optimized and user-friendly formulation
• Environment-friendly inerts with favorable ecotoxicity profiles to deliver high-performing and cost-effective formulations