Nearly 200 individuals from the worldwide biological products industry were in Orlando this week for the Fall 2017 semi-annual meeting of the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA).
The two-day meeting featured experts from the EPA, USDA, universities, major U.S.companies such as Nestlé’s and Coca Cola, and others involved in the biological products industry.
BPIA is made up of manufacturers of bio-pesticides, which control pest and diseases, as well as bio-stimulants, which boost the natural defense of plants in the agriculture.
“We’re also marketers, distributors, service providers, anyone who touches the biological industry as we define it,” said Keith Jones, Executive Director of the BPIA.
“There has been tremendous growth in the association,” Jones said. “When I came on board two years ago we were 85 member companies. As I sit here today, we’re 122 member companies, and our companies range from very small, sole proprietors – a couple of folks at some innovative, new technologies – all the way up to the largest agrochemical companies in the world.”
Some biological products, such as B.ts., have been around for more than 50 years, while others, along with bio-stimulants, are very new and innovative. Some aren’t even on the market yet, but many are making their way to market.
“There’s two big drivers for biological,” Jones said. “One is consumer demand. And really, if you look to Europe, they’re about five years ahead of us.”
“The other driver is increased regulatory pressure. Again, Europe is about five years ahead of us. They’re really ratcheting down on a lot of the traditional tools that were available to growers. They’re going away in Europe. I think here in the U.S., you may see some of that as well.”
Jones noted that the BPIA is a big believer in integrated pest management, IPM.
“We never say that biological are the silver bullet. They’re not. They’re most effective when they’re used in conjunction with traditional chemistries,” Jones said.
“The worst time to start a biological is when you’re having a major problem. The best time is to start early. They’re so effective as preventative. They’re really good in tank mixes, used in combination, because they’ll extend the life of traditional chemicals,” Jones said.
Most biologicals have multiple modes of action, so they help with pest resistance.
“They don’t build up the resistance in the same way that they might to a traditional, but by using them together, you can extend the life of that traditional chemistry,” Jones explained.
Ag Agvocacy: One Small Pebble Can Cause a Ripple Effect of Change
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
At the March 2016 AgVocacy Forum in New Orleans, Rob Schrick, strategic business management lead – horticulture at Bayer CropScience, noted we should never give up trying to AgVocate on behalf of the agricultural industry. “It goes back to the pebble and the ripple, which is what Braedon Mannering, founderof Brae’s Brown Bags talked about; you know, little things can matter,” Schrick said.
Braeden Quinn Mannering is an amazing 12-year-old from Bear, Delaware, who founded the nonprofit, 3B Brae’s Brown Bags (3B), to provide healthy food and other items to homeless and low-income people in his community. Mannering’s ongoing mission is not only to feed people today, but also to raise awareness about the problems of food insecurity and poverty and to empower and inspire youth across the nation to become part of the solution.
AgVocacy and Credibility
“The event was the fourth year running of what was the Ag Issues Forum,” Schrick said. “It is a forum that we put on just in front of Commodity Classic because Ag media is there, market influencers are there. So how can we get them together to talk about the issues relating to agriculture? That was a great theme four years ago, but now as the millennial generation is coming onboard [amidst] so much misinformation about production agriculture, we have re-coined this the AgVocacy Forum. What that comes down to is how do we tell our story about agriculture?”
“One of the most interesting things we saw at the meeting,” Schrick noted, “was that we are influenced by people all around us, doctors, lawyers, and our pastors. However in agriculture, the number one influencer is the grower. That really resonated with me and it is true; he is the most credible source, he is the one who produces that food, and he has to make that land he is working on sustainable. He has to make that production come, year after year, after year, and in most cases, he wants to turn that over to the next generation of farmers.
Schrick expanded on the grower, “I think because they are at the point-source, their livelihood depends on it, and they have to get more out of that land and make it more fertile each following year, who is better stewarding that land? And because of that, who is the most credible source?” he asked. “You know, I would love for [the credible source] to be a company—like Bayer; we are very proud of ourselves. Or you could talk to a consumer, [but the story] is going to have a bent to it. But when a grower is talking about production agriculture, that is pretty credible,” he said.
Food Chain Partnership
“At Bayer, our customer is the grower,” Schrick commented, “and we have to meet the needs of that grower. Well that grower is producing a crop and he has a customer, which is the food chain. These retailers, these food processing companies that are buying his product, are putting requirements on that grower. We have a food chain position on our team and a Food Chain Partnership coalition within our company, whose number one job is to understand what these food processors will require the grower. We understand that; we can help the grower meet those challenges; that is what our food chain partnership is all about.
Anticipating Future Agricultural Needs
“We have just recently expanded the greenhouse facilities at our integrated West Sacramento Biologics and Vegetables Seeds site. Bayer is an innovation company; our job is to look into the future and ask, ‘What will be the needs of growers ten years from now?’ Part of that is going to be a reduction in residues, and one of the ways to meet that need is through biologics. That is where we are making our investment. In 2012, we purchased AgraQuest, one of several biologics investments we made, not necessarily for the portfolio they had—which was a wonderful portfolio—but for that scientific know-how and the discovery engine that we have created for biologics.”
“We have got to come up with the next generation of crop protection products that can meet lower residue requirements. And as Bayer is Science for a Better Life, we are going to inject science into this and come up with a new portfolio of crop protection products that will meet the needs of the new generation.”
It all goes back to the pebble and the ripple effect.
Bayer CropScience sees a positive long-term market development in North America and is committing significant resources to spur further growth. “We see future growth driven by increasing and sustained demand from customers for improved seeds and innovative crop protection products,” said Bayer CropScience CEO Liam Condon at the September 3, 2014 official inauguration of the company’s new integrated R&D site in West Sacramento, California.
“We are investing heavily in R&D infrastructure such as laboratories, greenhouses and breeding stations as well as new production capacities and seed processing facilities,” Condon explained. He said that the company aims to grow faster than the U.S. market.
Bayer CropScience plans to invest close to US$ 1 billion (EUR 700 million) in Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) in the United States between 2013 and 2016, mainly to ramp up research and development and to expand a world-class product supply of its top crop protection brands. These expenditures are part of a global investment program Bayer CropScience started last year, with a total CAPEX for the period 2013 to 2016 of EUR 2.4 billion (approximately US$ 3.3 billion).
Consolidating and expanding R&D organization is key for Bayer CropScience
Bayer CropScience seeks to better leverage its full research and development capabilities by consolidating and expanding its global R&D organization. “Our integrated West Sacramento site represents a major step forward in our efforts to enhance our vegetable seeds and biological crop protection innovation efforts,” said Dr. Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development at Bayer CropScience. “The investment into this state-of-the-art facility creates an environment where our researchers and experts can find the best possible conditions to discover solutions that growers across the globe can depend on to produce high-quality food in a sustainable manner.”
The new West Sacramento site, which also serves as the global headquarters of Bayer CropScience’s Biologics Business has the capacity to house up to 300 employees. The approximately US$ 80 million facility is situated on 10 acres of land and features a 100,000-square-foot building and a 35,000-square-foot pilot plant to support research and development of biological crop protection products, as well as a 30,000-square-foot Vegetable Seeds research building. The facility will also include a 2,000-square-foot greenhouse and five acres of nearby land for future greenhouse space.
Expansion of production capacities in the USA
In addition to building its R&D network in the USA, Bayer CropScience is also investing significantly in the production capacities of its crop protection products.
“Along with capacity expansions at our Muskegon, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri sites, the construction of our new plant in Mobile, Alabama for the production of our herbicide Liberty™ will contribute significantly to our future growth plans,” stressed Condon, who pointed out that the increased production of Liberty™ will help U.S. growers fight weed resistance, a key challenge for U.S. farmers.
“The single biggest investment item in the USA is our planned capacity expansion of Liberty™ herbicide. This is a strong signal to the market as Liberty™ is the only nonselective herbicide that controls glyphosate-resistant weeds,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO for Bayer CropScience LP and Head of Crop Protection for the North American region. “Two-thirds of our planned investments in the United States between 2013 and 2016 are intended to expand our production capacities. This includes measures to further optimize our supply chain in order to increase flexibility and thrive despite market volatility,” Blome added.
Investments in Seeds business and U.S. infrastructure
Bayer CropScience is also investing constantly in its Seeds business. In June 2014, the company announced plans to expand its North American and global Seeds headquarters in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina. The RTP site has experienced significant operational growth in recent years, and approximately US$ 200 million will be invested through 2016. “The construction of greenhouses as well as the necessary infrastructure and land development represent our continued commitment to growth in RTP,” said Blome.
The overall RTP investment program includes further important projects, for example the construction of the Development North America facility dedicated to Crop Protection and Environmental Science research; renovations to Bayer CropScience´s North American headquarters, scheduled to be completed in 2015; construction of the 6,000 square-foot North American Bee Care Center; and the purchase of 70 acres of land to accommodate future growth, which includes a new 29,500 square-foot greenhouse.
Bayer CropScience also plans to invest approximately US$ 90 million in its Cotton Research and Development Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas. Founded in 1998, the company’s global cotton headquarters is focused on providing cotton growers with the products and solutions they need to meet the world’s growing demand for fiber. With a staff of around 120 experts, Bayer CropScience operates two breeding stations, a seed processing plant, a quality assurance lab, a seed warehousing facility, and a state-of-the art research and development lab.
Complementing this, the company also invested US$ 17 million in the expansion of its Memphis Research and Development site, bringing total greenhouse capacity to 76,000 square feet. Located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a world-class group of scientists, researchers, technicians and agronomists with a specialized set of skills is developing high quality cotton and soybean varieties as well as trait innovations. Their aim is to support Bayer CropScience’s growing global cotton and soybean seed businesses through molecular breeding and other innovative technologies.