Where has all the innovation gone? To formulations, says Cornie Thiessen, ADAMA Agricultural Solutions’ Canadian general manager, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
ADAMA is an Israeli-headquartered, crop protection supplier that’s betting its future on proprietary formulation.
ADAMA’s insecticide Cormoran is a good example with two active ingredients: acetamiprid and novaluron. The dual-mode insecticide knocks down and provides residual control of codling moth, pear psylla, leafroller and Colorado potato beetle. The label has also been extended for use on spotted wing drosophila, good news for blueberry growers. The product is useful because it specifically targets both the egg and larval stages of this invasive pest. Most importantly, its formulation is an emulsifiable concentrate, making it easy to tank mix with water.
Another product in the ADAMA portfolio is Folpan fungicide with activity on downy and powdery mildew in grapes says Rob Bahry, product development manager, ADAMA. “This product is currently a granular formulation, but we’re expecting a liquid formulation – much easier to use – in a couple of years.”
ADAMA’s Zivata insecticide is a synthetic pyrethroid formulated with an improved, plant-based solvent that offers fast-acting stomach and contact effects against a broad spectrum of insect pests. It has low volatile organic compounds, properties that improve the user experience.
These products really matter to specialty crops which, by their nature, are grown on acreages that are much smaller than what’s common in Canadian wheat, canola, corn and soybeans. Total Canadian potato acreage, for example, topped out at 387,000 acres in 2022 compared to wheat’s 25 million acres.
Horticultural growers are worried that fewer active ingredients are being registered in Canada by the major crop protection companies. In global ranking of gross sales volumes, they are Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, BASF and Corteva. According to AgroPages, these behemoths accounted for 55 per cent of the total global pesticide sales of $72.6 billion in 2021. In seventh place is ADAMA, accounting for about seven per cent of global sales.
For horticulture, the company that’s been part of the global Syngenta Group since 2020 represents an important player in the supply chain. The fate of active ingredients is governed by the formulation, says Dr. Yoav Avidor, vice-president, innovation, development, research and registration, ADAMA. And those formulations are becoming more important for lessening the environmental footprint. Whether it’s better penetration of plant cuticles, higher levels of rainfastness or more efficient pay loads, these formulations are making a difference to both grower and environmental health.
Beyond the importance of new formulations is the breadth of ADAMA’s manufacturing capacity across the world with plants in China, Israel and more recently India.
“The frailties of the global supply chain have become clear during the last two challenging years,” says Thiessen. “That’s why the company is investing in manufacturing capacity on several continents.”
Three complexes exist in China, the biggest in Hubei province, but more recent investments have gone to India and Brazil to complement both R & D and manufacturing facilities in Israel.
“We are still not out of the woods in terms of the supply chain,” explains Thiessen. “Global demand for crop protection products is at historically high levels. While some improvements have happened in ocean transport, there are still problems at ports. The new realities in Europe – inflation, labour disruptions and energy challenges – are affecting different geographies in terms of production.”
It's not surprising, then, that ADAMA announced rate increases in October 2022 for its product portfolio that ranged from five to 12 per cent.
In the pipeline
Pre-pandemic and pre-Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, major changes in the regulatory and consumer environments were incentivizing crop protection companies such as ADAMA to search for better products. It’s costing an average of USD $500 million to complete the regulatory requirements for a new molecule. So ADAMA’s strategy is to scour the list of crop protection products that have come off-patent and then, with its multi-disciplinary team, to develop and patent unique formulations.
This strategy will benefit Canadian blueberry growers with the expected registration of Soratel fungicide (prothioconzaole) for the 2023 growing season. Its formulation contains patented Asorbital technology, a unique mix of solvents and surfactants to increase penetration effectiveness in leaves. This should help both highbush and lowbush blueberry growers with problems such as Septoria leaf spot and mummy berry disease.
The second milestone in 2023 will be expanded use of a packaging facility devoted to water-soluble bags near Tilsonburg, Ontario. This innovation is a benefit to growers by mitigating exposure to pesticides or volatile organic compounds (VOC) which give off distinctive odours.
In the regulatory landscape
In today’s crop protection world, it’s about more than a molecule. As ADAMA has demonstrated, it’s about innovative formulations and packaging. Their future platforms are looking at encapsulation technology, drift control, humectants, and UV stabile packaging.
Humectants? They’re the opposite of dessicants. When used in a crop protection product, they help keep water in the spray deposit. At best, they can rehydrate spray deposits by drawing on rain or dew or even from moisture in the air. This boosts the product’s efficacy by increasing pesticide uptake into the leaf and insects making contact on the surface.
For all crop protection companies, it’s a long and winding road to register new products and formulations with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the ADAMA team has a full bench of Canadian agricultural talent that’s keen to bring solutions for Canadian-specific problems. Expect more investments in the future.
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