Agrow's Crop Science Awards 2020 – shortlisted applications

12:58 PM | October 27, 2020 | Sanjiv Rana

 An overview of the applications shortlisted for Agrow’s Crop Science Awards 2020, to be held virtually on November 4th.

Best R&D Pipeline

Belgian company Biotalys claims a discovery platform unlike any existing biocontrol platform. It borrows nature’s mechanisms to harness the biological activities of selected proteins to protect plants and food against fungi, insects and bacteria in a directed and specific manner. The technology helps select proteins for a given mode of action against a pathogen or a pest. The company’s pipeline comprises biofungicides, bioinsecticides and biobactericides.

BASF’s R&D pipeline is focused on sustainable solutions, comprising seeds and traits, chemical and biological crop protection, digital and regionally-tailored products and solutions. The estimated peak sales potential of products with launch dates between 2019 and 2029 is more than €7.5 billion. More than 30 pipeline products will be launched worldwide by 2029 enabling higher yields and quality and even more sustainable production.

Bayer claims a robust pipeline comprising seeds and traits, crop protection products and digital tools with an estimated peak sales value of up to €30 billion. The company highlights its “unrivalled” annual investment of €2.3 billion in crop science R&D in order to provide sustainable solutions tailored to meet current challenges. Bayer views innovation as investment in more sustainable options for agriculture and a real return on that spend.

US microbial products company BioConsortia points out the uniqueness of its discovery process using its advanced microbial selection system, which evolves the plant microbiome and accumulates beneficial microbes prior to isolation. That leads to a high number of leads – better than the leading biologicals on the market. The company’s pipeline comprises biopesticides, biostimulants and nitrogen-fixation for non-legume crops.

Corteva Agriscience believes that increasing global food demand, changing consumer preferences and rising pest resistance issues underscore the urgent need to discover and bring novel agricultural technologies to market. These include crop protection active ingredients, seeds and trait technology, and diagnostic and digital tools. Corteva says that continual innovation is required to address industry-driving forces and market needs, while delivering sustainable solutions that reduce environmental impact.

FMC says that its R&D pipeline represents the greatest diversity of new chemistry, novel modes of action, and biologicals in the industry. That will lead to new product introductions over the next decade, including the first new herbicide mode of action in over 30 years. In addition to synthetic chemistries, the pipeline also boasts a growing portfolio of biologicals for the control of fungal pathogens and nematodes.

Best New Crop Protection Product or Trait

UPL subsidiary Advanta Seeds presents the “world’s first” herbicide tolerance sorghum trait, igrowth. The company points out that in today's changing climate, farmers are starting to prefer sorghum to secure a reliable harvest. Igrowth sorghum contains a proprietary, non-GMO, imidazolinone tolerance, technology that allows farmers to spray a companion imidazolinone herbicide for pre- or post-emergence control over broadleaf and grass weeds without causing damage to the crop.

Corteva Agriscience presents its Enlist weed control system for soybeans as a comprehensive technology enabling farmers to safely and flexibly manage hard-to-control and resistant weeds. The system has three components: Enlist E3 soybeans, providing tolerance to three herbicide modes of action – 2,4-D choline, glyphosate and glufosinate-ammonium; Enlist herbicides with Colex-D technology, delivering near-zero volatility and significantly reduced drift potential; and Enlist 360, a training programme.

Within four months of its US launch, sales of Syngenta’s fungicidal seed treatment, Saltro (pydiflumetofen – trade-marked as Adepidyn), reached “extraordinary levels” for a product targeting just a single disease in one crop – sudden death syndrome (Fusarium virguliforme) in soybeans. Also offering a new mode of action to tackle blackleg (Leptosphaeria maculans) resistance in canola and a reliable control of bakanae (Gibberella fujikuroi) in rice, Saltro was developed to fill these specific gaps in the grower’s toolbox.

Best Biological Product (Biopesticide)

US company AgBiome’s Howler (Pseudomonas chlororaphis strain AFS009) is a revolutionary biofungicide that harnesses the power of the plant microbiome with novel, multiple modes-of-action that provide preventive, long-lasting control of a broad spectrum of soilborne and foliar diseases. Howler can be used effectively at every phase of production: greenhouse, planting, early plants, maturing plants, and at harvest.

Austrian company Kwizda Agro's Xilon is the first broad-spectrum soil fungicide for oilseeds and maize, inspired by nature and designed for progressive and caring growers. A strain of Trichoderma asperellum (T34) formulated in a unique granular formulation, makes the biofungicide a modern tool for hybrid technologies and offers a perfect fit for anti-resistance management programmes. Xilon can replace chemical fungicide applications, without loss of efficacy, and improves plant and soil health.

UPL's Laminaria digitata-based biofungicide, Vacciplant, controls a "vast" array of diseases, including powdery mildew, Botrytis spp and blight. The preventive solution triggers plant defence mechanisms with 7-10 day residual activity. Vacciplant provides a similar level of efficacy to conventional products with broader spectrum control and lower resistance risks. It has a minimum two-year shelf life and is easy to integrate within an IPM programme or as a tank mix.

The Spear branded AI GS-omega/kappa-Hxtx-Hv1a technology by US company Vestaron, is the first naturally occurring peptide product to overcome hurdles to commercial development. Following classification as a new IRAC group 32 based on its targeting the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in a different way, Spear – Lep was launched in 2019. The novel MoA provides a role in IPM/insecticide resistance management programmes and has efficacy equal to traditional chemistries, but with the benefits of biologicals.

Best Biological Product (Biostimulant)

Chengdu New Sun Crop Science's Coronatine’ multi-functional Pseudomonas syringae-based plant growth regulator mediates growth and resistance by mimicking the phytohormone jasmonic acid (JAs) and abscisic acid, while its bioactivity is 100-10,000 times that of JAs in threshold concentration. ‘Coronatine’ may provide the same level of function as conventional products (enhancing plant resistance against pathogen, chilling, drought and salt/alkaline and raising nutrition uptake) at lower cost and higher safety.

Pollen polysaccharides from Chinese company Chengdu New Sun Crop Science form a novel plant-derived biostimulant, which promotes crop root elongation, enhances crop tolerance to abiotic stresses, and increases crop nutrition absorption. Pollen polysaccharides form one of three products from the comprehensive utilisation of pollen extract line, which is primarily used to manufacture the natural plant growth regulator 14-hydroxylated brassinosteroid.

FMC’s Accudo biostimulant was launched in South Korea as a soil drench or drip irrigation application biofertiliser on fruit and vegetable crops for the 2019 season. Accudo is a versatile biostimulant based on the bacterium, Bacillus licheniformis. It stimulates soil-root-plant symbiosis from the start. The use of Accudo has demonstrated more than 15% yield increase, improved crop appearance, vigour, strong early establishment and enhanced crop development under certain stress conditions.

Best Formulation Innovation

Chinese company Chengdu Newsun Crop Science has developed a “tailored” formulation for its plant-derived acaricide. The formulation helps in a more targeted control of pests so that the active ingredient is sent more “quickly and accurately” to the effector site. Products based on the technology have led to annual revenues of yuan 60-80 million ($9-12 million) for the company.
Corteva Agriscience presents its water-dispersible granule formulation insecticide, Hibifen (Pyraxalt [trade-mark name of triflumezopyrim] 10% + spinetoram 12%). The formulation has been designed to provide ease of use for rice growers in backpack as well as drone applications. Hibifen utilises co-formulants with excellent sustainability attributes. It will be made available to rice growers in the Asia Pacific region in the spring of 2022.

Israeli company STK calls its “hybrid” fungicide, Regev (Melaleuca alternifolia extract + difenoconazole), a “game-changing pre-mix” that provides a bridge for attracting growers who have never tried any biological product. Regev is an innovative and mutually reinforcing formulation of tea tree oil and difenoconazole, STK says. Using the product, the grower reduces chemical residues on crops, and increases yields because of the multiple modes of action for outstanding resistance management.

Best Innovation in Digital Farming Technology

Healthy Fields, part of BASF's digital farming platform, Xarvio, is a digital value proposition that optimises crop production and guarantees a positive plant health outcome. Farmers get a complete, tailored plant protection strategy for each field based on complex field zone specific crop production algorithms. Healthy Fields optimises field and season-specific crop protection application timing, product choice and field-specific dosing. The farmer has full transparency and a success guarantee.

Once a crop is planted, its potential yield is challenged by biotic and abiotic stressors. Farmers need to anticipate the evolution and impact of the stressor. Corteva Agriscience has developed and globally deployed a suite of image-based digital tools, putting useful information at farmers’ fingertips. That includes data on crop density and growth, pest and disease damage, and projected yield, providing valuable insights to farmers.

In March 2020, Corteva Agriscience launched LANDVisor, a decision support system, consultation platform, and workflow solution for rangeland vegetation management. LANDVisor utilises remote sensing information, data science, and visualisation capabilities via satellite, aerial, and drone technologies to deliver targeted, prescriptive treatment regimes. These prescriptions recommend precise, GPS-enabled and correctly-timed applications to control targeted vegetation and optimise return on investment.

Arc farm intelligence is a mobile application from FMC that uses real-time data and predictive modelling to ensure that the right crop protection products are applied where and when needed. The application's main functions include a dynamic heat map that is generated based on real time data collected from fields regarding insect pressure, and machine learning based pest prediction models that warn users of increasing pressure on their field and region.

MyFarming (“Svoe Fermerstvo”) is a digital ecosystem for farmers and suppliers with unique services in Russia. The solution from the Russian Agricultural Bank gives farmers access to a range of fully digital services: from selection of seed, crops, fertilisers, selling and buying agricultural products to remote veterinary services. MyFarming's goal is to provide farmers with digital services that help them to automate routine processes, spare time and resources.

Track, Check Quality and Collaborate – One platform from Indian company SourceTrace does it all. The unique TraceNext affords instant quality testing on trade and safety parameters, enabling instant trade decisions without delays and dependencies on lab reports. TraceNext combines blockchain enabled traceability (complete food value chain) and AI based quality testing (at farm), guaranteeing safe food across global food value chains. The asset light model was launched in May 2020.

Chinese company XAG's XAG R150 Unmanned Ground Vehicle is a four-wheeled lightweight robotic platform developed to release workers from repetitive farming operations on open and rugged terrains. As the world’s first mass-produced multifunctional farm robot, XAG R150 can be used for activities ranging from precision crop spraying, field scouting to on-farm delivery. The robot is endowed with superpowers, including terrain-adaptive autonomous operation, centimetre-level high accuracy navigation, and 360° high-speed atomisation spraying.

XAG Smart Agriculture System provides smallholders and farm owners with smart production solutions to sustainably reduce labour costs, close yield gaps, and improve profit margins. Based on crop growth key indicators and agronomic workflow planning, XAG's software integrates three major farm management processes: intelligent perception of farmland data, AI-driven production decision-making, and accurate execution of unmanned farming devices.

Best Industry Collaboration

US company AgBiome has partnered with the Limagrain/KWS seed company joint venture, Genective, to deliver biotechnology crop traits. The partnership will leverage AgBiome’s discovery engine for new traits, and Genective’s research and development capabilities. Jointly, the companies aim to deliver insect control genes with new modes of action and intend to license these traits broadly.

Bayer, and US company Arvinas, have formed a joint venture, Oerth Bio, through which they seek to apply new biopharmaceutical technologies in widespread, sustainable agricultural applications. The new entity will benefit from Arvinas’ expertise in targeted protein degradation and Bayer’s experience in developing human therapies as well as agricultural technologies. The companies claim that Oerth Bio can tackle some of the toughest challenges facing farmers on a global scale.

UPL formed an alliance comprising UPL Japan, FMC, Japan Agricultural Development and Extension Association (JADEA) and some other companies to enhance farmers’ understanding of pesticide resistance in crops. They aim at making integrated pest management practices a viable solution to crop resistance issues faced by Japanese farmers. Demonstration of IPM through field trials led to greater understanding of these measures.

Best Stewardship Programme

BASF India’s stewardship campaign, “Heroes come back home safely”, aims to equip farmers with information on the safe use of crop protection products. With Internet connectivity rapidly expanding in rural India, the company has chosen to amplify product stewardship through social media platforms. BASF India feels that connecting with farmers online provides wider reach, by bypassing the challenge of contacting them individually. The campaign has reached more than 2.5 million farmers.

Corteva Agriscience’s “Red de Custodia”, piloted in 2018 for Spanish-speaking countries in the Meso Andean region, aims at building awareness of stewardship and good agricultural practices. The programme provides toolkits with training units, which teach concepts such as formulations, product compatibility, and the idea that “the label is the law”, in a simple manner. Since 2019, it has seen more than 42,000 participants in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Corteva Agriscience introduced the “Safe Food Safe Farmer” stewardship campaign in Maharashtra, India, in 2018. The initiative focuses on the state’s agriculturally important districts of Nashik, Ahmednagar and Buldana, educating farmers on the safe use of seed and crop protection products. This year, the programme expanded its scope to include practices for safeguarding against Covid-19. Since its inception, the campaign has reached nearly a million stakeholders.

Brazilian recycling organisation InpEv which runs the country’s reverse logistics programme to empty and recycle crop protection packaging, has taken action to protect its staff from Covid-19. InpEV recommended that receiving stations operate at half their capacity, besides reducing by 50% their scheduled returns. The restrictions lasted a month, and the timely decision ensured that no cases of Covid-19 were reported from the receiving stations.

Syngenta introduced its fungicide, Elatus (azoxystrobin + benzovindiflupyr), in Brazil, in 2014, to combat Asian soybean rust (ASR). It launched an awareness drive after a 2017 study indicated that several ASR populations had shifted sensitivity to certain modes of action in soybeans. Syngenta’s 60-day roadshow involved more than 100 employees interacting with 2,400 growers. The objectives were three-fold: to control ASR; deliver the Elatus brand promise; and maintain the product’s lifecycle.

Syngenta’s seed treatment, Austral Plus (fludioxonil + tefluthrin), came to be widely used by Romanian farmers after Europe banned neonicotinoids in 2018. If used without correct stewardship, the formulation may cause a condition called “Subjective Facial Sensation” (SFS). To prevent this, Syngenta visited and audited 250 farms, limiting sales to them. It also launched a twin pack with a new adjuvant and conducted random sampling to monitor best practice.

In Brazil, UPL offered a free app called UPspray, enabling farmers to gather information on the safe and efficient use of crop protection products. It provides guidance about nozzle type, outflow and order of using products in tank mixes, among other things. The inputs are not limited to UPL’s own portfolio and cover other market offerings as well. The app debuted in October 2018, and an update was published in June 2020.

Best Marketing Programme

Adama’s campaign to reach Colombia’s potato farmers revolved around the region’s traditional game, Tejo. The game involves throwing metal discs at targets containing small amounts of gunpowder, and the company conducted several Tejo tournaments to introduce their portfolio to farmers. It claims that the campaign increased sales by nearly 20% and earned them $35 for every $1 spent. More than 80,000 people engaged with the campaign online.

In Germany, Adama conducted a three-month campaign to increase registrations on its myADAMA information portal. It deployed several tools to drive the outreach, including social media posts, targeted advertisements, and videos backed by fliers. The company also held a month-long “knowledge rally”, where participants answered questions to win smartphones and headphones. Adama says that the efforts resulted in a 1,000% surge in registrations during the campaign’s duration.

Adama undertook an outreach in the US over a period of 18 months, to promote its two new herbicides, created in collaboration with US company RiceTec. The ammonium salt of imazamox-based post-emergent herbicides, Preface and Postscript, are targeted at growers adopting herbicide-tolerant rice hybrids. Adama used experiential marketing, including print collateral, social media, paid media, digital channels, and direct interaction with growers to reach potential users.

BASF carried out its “Revysol for the Future” campaign in China using online channels in May 2020. Revysol is the brand name of mefentrifluconazole, an active ingredient representing the latest innovation in triazole fungicides. Besides creating a website, BASF used tools such as games and video teasers to engage social media users. The company aimed at showcasing its product to China’s 904 million internet users through the campaign.

In India, BASF conducted a campaign for its insecticide, Sefina (afidopyropen). The purpose of the “Nature + Technology” campaign in 2019 was to motivate cotton growers into implementing solutions like Sefina. The exercise saw BASF reaching out to 1.3 million farmers directly and through digital means. As a result, the insecticide has been used to treat some 710,000 acres of farmland.

FMC devised a marketing strategy for promoting its cotton insecticide, Talstar (bifenthrin), in Pakistan, using augmented reality. The campaign, named “Field in Your Pocket”, saw the company’s sales teams showcase the insecticide’s performance over the lifecycle of the crop in a virtual setting. An Android-based app was developed for this purpose, and 3,000 farmers were identified to participate in the project. The campaign propelled the product’s sales in the region.

UPL Indonesia developed a social media campaign, “Dunia Rado & Andi”, to reach its users in the country. The campaign benefitted from the well-developed internet infrastructure of Indonesia, which connects almost all of its small settlements. The outreach was undertaken to promote UPL’s offerings among farmers, besides shaping the mindset of younger audience to take up farming as a profession. The campaign began in August 2019.

Best Company from an Emerging Region

Indian crop protection company UPL has evolved to become one of the top five agricultural solution providers globally. The company’s growth strategy has led to several acquisitions, through which it has ventured into new segments and widened its footprint. UPL operates in 138 countries, showing the geographical scale it has achieved since inception in 1969. The company marked its biggest takeover with the purchase of Arysta LifeScience in 2018.

Chinese agrochemical company Jiangsu Yangnong Chemical has enhanced its pesticide production capacity through strategic acquisitions, besides expanding global reach by strengthening its sales channels. Furthermore, the company is upgrading production equipment to keep pace with rising pesticide demand. The company invested $5.1 million last year to ensure that its plant complies with safety protocols. It is also directing attention towards improved integration of research, production and marketing functions.

Best Supplier

Chinese company Jiangsu Yangnong Chemical claims to be the only publicly listed company in the country to have leading products based on pyrethroid insecticides. Beginning with a portfolio comprising pyrethroids, it expanded into multiple products and claims to be a leading supplier of pesticides and fine chemicals. The company stresses its good service to clients, respect for their demands, and attention to customer feedback.

Chinese company Lier Chemical rates itself as a high-tech enterprise that was set up by the China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP) in 1993 and listed on Shenzhen Stock Exchange in July 2008. Headquartered in Mianyang, Sichuan, the company has six production bases. It claims to be the largest R&D and production base of chloropyridine-based herbicide products and the largest glufosinate-ammonium producer in China.

Chinese company Zhejiang Xinan Chemical Industrial Group(Wynca) claims to be the industry leader of glycine-routed glyphosate. The technology of chlorine recycling ultilisation between glyphosate and organosilicone production systems, promotes the company's competitive strength in agrochemical manufacturing cost. Wynca has developed proprietary technologies for glyphosate ammonium salt TC, glyphosate IPA salt TC, glyphosate potassium salt TC and glyphosate DMA salt TC and their formulations.

Best Supporting Role

US regulatory consultancy company, Compliance Services International, provides solutions for organisations facing regulatory hurdles. The company’s recent activities include endangered species and endocrine disruptor assessments, besides registration renewal of active ingredients in crucial international markets. These exhibit how their knowledge of regulatory guidelines and scientific outlook translate into commercial success for clients. In 2020, the company completed over three decades of service to the crop protection industry.

GVK Biosciences offers solutions to companies with a focus on accelerating their research and development capabilities. It enables customers to transform concepts into commercial offerings for the crop protection industry. The company works across all stages of product development, right from discovery of a molecule, to making it an active ingredient ready for development. GVK Biosciences has been partnering FMC for more than 17 years.