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Biological plant protection products see surging demand at Biopesticides Summit 2019

A new age is dawning in agriculture, as the biocontrol sector is finally making its mark with increased support from society and governments, greater investment and innovation in R&D, and an expanding toolbox as more products are approved across the globe. These prosperous conditions were in evidence at the inaugural Biopesticides Summit, which took place in Swansea, UK, on 2–3 July 2019, as more than 200 international experts including 30 exhibitors gathered to discuss challenges and opportunities in the biocontrol sector.

Co-hosted by Swansea University and Bionema Ltd, the event was opened by Dr Minshad Ansari, CEO of Bionema Ltd and Chairman of the Biopesticides Summit which is part of World Biopesticide Forum. Key to the event’s success was a high calibre of international speakers and participants, representing the private and public sectors, academia, regulatory bodies, end-users, and policy makers. Dr Ansari explained that the biocontrol sector is dominated by small enterprises and start-ups, which struggle in the face of regulatory and financial pressures. This is why a key focus of the Biopesticide Summit was to encourage collaboration, to create the bonds needed for small companies to survive. The scene was set for innovation and collaboration over the following 2 days.

Innovation

The sector is highly innovative and is drawing on advanced technologies in other sectors, from molecular biology and genome sequencing to formulation techniques. The spotlight was certainly on innovation as many of these developments were celebrated at the Biopesticide Awards gala dinner, which took place at Swansea University.

Opening the Biopesticide Awards 2019, Chairman, Dr Ansari, hailed a "shared vision for industry growth" that was evident in the investments being made in new facilities and expansion by so many shortlisted entrants. He added, "This is exactly why we launched the Biopesticide Awards 2019 – to celebrate and highlight that work - that shared vision for biocontrol business at the global level."

The Biopesticide Awards 2019 were generously supported by industry sponsors Bionema, Maxstim, RICE (Swansea University), Dwr Cymru Welsh Water – Pestsmart, Development Bank of Wales, Greaves Brewster, Capital Law and Eden. Nine Awards recognised outstanding achievements in the field of biocontrol and their impacts in crop protection.

The winners were:

  • New bioinsecticide product: Ecolibrium Biologicals
  • New biofungicide product: Ecoflora Agro
  • New bionematicide product: Ecospray
  • New semiochemical product: Ecop-FP
  • New biostimulant product: Maxtim
  • Innovative research project of the year: AgBio Systems
  • Best industry collaboration: Bionema and the University of Birmingham
  • Outstanding achievement: Dr Shakir Al-Zaidi, Founder and Chairman, Russell IPM.

That biocontrol technologies such as these will be at the forefront of new developments is represented by the global market for these products, which is growing at a rapid CAGR of 15.99%. This market growth is echoed by the current regulatory situation: around 30% of plant protection tools now available are already biological, and more than 50% of new regulatory applications are biological products.

Encouraging the uptake of biocontrol agents, the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) announced the launch of its Biopesticides Portal at the Summit. Launched this month (July 2019), the platform offers free access to information about products registered in any country for specific crop pests and diseases. By the end of this year, the platform will be available in 20 countries. As well as providing opportunities for manufacturers looking to encourage wider uptake of products, it is set to become the go-to resource for identifying and sourcing biopesticides.

Animated enthusiasm on the part of many speakers emphasized the need for improved guidance on the use of biocontrol products. A frequent lack of understanding (by growers) about how to use these products in the field can lead to issues with application, which in turn leads to issues with effectiveness. Post-launch technical support is key to market development and acceptability, so manufacturers must work to improve labels and guidance.

Alongside this was the recommendation for manufacturers to ensure that their biocontrol products are formulated for compatibility with standard pesticide application equipment. The challenges of formulating products with live active ingredients were the focus of several discussions throughout the Summit. A small number of bio adjuvants are already available, and more are expected to enter the market. There are many opportunities for the sector to draw on formulation technologies developed in other industries.

Collaboration

Such opportunities for working with other sectors – drawing on their experience and working in collaboration to innovate in the biocontrol space – was a key goal of the Summit. Both in terms of discovery and product development, such collaborations are already taking place, and the Summit was a great forum for meeting like-minded colleagues with common goals. To this end, a B2 Matchmaking service was available to facilitate on-site meetings, and a plenary session on the second day included presentations from industry networks, investors and collaborators with ideas for new business models that could work in this unique sector.

Dr Ansari, CEO of Bionema and Chairman of the Biopesticides Summit said, “This Summit is an international platform for collaboration and partnership, to bridge the gap between academia and industry to ensure successful innovation and commercialization.”

Dr Sarah Harding, Editorial Director of Chemicals Knowledge magazine added, “This was a tremendously successful inaugural event – the goals of encouraging collaboration and innovation have undoubtedly been achieved, and the people involved here are going to be leading the agricultural industry through an interesting period of change and disruption.”

As the new era of the ‘real green revolution’ dawns, the agricultural industry will see unprecedented change as numerous factors influence how it develops to feed the rapidly expanding global population. At the forefront of this change will be the biocontrol sector, and people leading that sector were at the Biopesticides Summit this July.

They’ll be gathering again in 2020 to drive innovation and progress in biocontrol. Join them to be part of the action.