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Dr. Venkatesh Devanur CEO AgriLife, Agri-Life logo, BioAg World Logo
Dr. Venkatesh Devanur, CEO, AgriLife

“Use or overuse of chemical fertilizer and toxic pesticides has resulted in serious depletion of beneficial bacteria in the soil. Reduced usage of organic fertilizer (Compost) has resulted in the erosion of organic matter/organic carbon. Soil health can be restored only if the beneficial microbes are allowed to re-colonize in the soil eco-system. R&D efforts and product development from AgriLife envisage betterment of Soil and Crop health.” believes Dr. Venkatesh Devanur, CEO of AgriLife. AgriLife is a research-based Agri-biotech manufacturing enterprise based in Hyderabad, India. The company is focused on bio solutions for crops and soils with a pan India presence since 1994 and a global presence since the year 2001.

Below is the crisp from our talk with Dr. Venkatesh. Enjoy reading!

Q1. AgriLife has the vision to promote organic inputs for agriculture. Though quite many areas in India are organic by default and on the contrary, there are some states which have excessive use of chemical inputs. Why is a huge gap in chemical use among different states and areas and how to minimize this gap?

India has about 145 million Ha of arable land and about 145 million farming families cultivate this land. Thus, the average farm size is just 1Ha per family. It is very difficult for a small and marginal farmer to earn a decent income from such a small farm. Therefore, there is a great emphasis on producing most from limited land. Irrigated land is more exploited for growing Rice and other Cash crops. Certain regions in India use a high volume of chemical Inputs and certain regions use very little volume. Subsidized Urea is used extensively at the cost of other nutrients making the plants week and susceptible to pest and diseases.

Export oriented crops like grapes, species, and tea are tested for about 200 chemical pesticide residues and get rejected for exports if MRL does not match. These farmers have started using Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, and Bio Stimulants. Basmati Rice farmers have also started using Bio Agri Inputs because of the compulsion of testing for export goods. AgriLife is promoting Bio Agri Inputs for Soil health and plant health.

Q2. You have a good R&D facility and have developed some very innovative and revolutionizing products. The Indian market has promising BioAg products from you and others in the Industry but still chemicals dominate. Why is the adoption of biologicals slow despite great products being available in the market?

The majority of farmers in India are small and marginal and want results very quickly. Knockdown of insects is a major criterion for buying an Insecticide. IPM approach is very difficult for a large number of small farmers. Bio Pesticides based on Neem are very popular as a Tank mix product with other conventional pesticides. Whereas microbial origin Bio Pesticides need certain specific climatic conditions of relative humidity and temperature. The performance of Bio Pesticides under such adverse climatic conditions can be erratic and therefore do not meet farmer’s expectations of quick delivery of conventional products.

Q3. There has been an element of doubt in users’ minds about the quality of agri-inputs. What measures has government and companies taken to ensure quality and generate confidence amongst users?

Govt. of India through its regulatory agencies for pesticides, fertilizers, Bio Stimulants, and seeds has developed a well-defined specification and quality standards. Most companies in the organized sector produce and market quality products. Regulatory agencies visit manufacturing facilities before issued of manufacturing license and take samples periodically from both factory and retail outlets in the market. The Agri Inputs market is highly monsoon dependent and depends heavily on unsecured credit from input suppliers. Therefore, some small parts of the input business may not conform to the expected standard and results in a gap of confidence.

Q4. AgriLife has great R&D, a strong product line, and is expanding into different geographies. What are the long term and short term plans of AgriLife for growth in the BioAg Industry?

AgriLife is focusing on Bio solutions for soils and crops. Producing products from sustainable resources that meet the expectations of farmers in terms of performance and no toxic residues has been our objective. As a long-term objective, AgriLife is focusing on dossier development for Bio Insecticides/ Bio Acaricides viz. Derisom ( Karanjin) and Anosom (Squamocin/ Annonin). These are all-weather Bio Pesticides with long Shelf life, with no adverse residue, and compatible with conventional products as a tank mix. As a short-term objective, we are focusing on soil health improvement products like Rootambio which has all Bio Fertilizer, Prebiotic, and Vitamins.

Q5. BioAg World Congress 2021 is the most sought-after event of the BioAg Industry. What advantage do you see for yourself and other Indian companies in joining BAW?

BAW is a unique platform and is an industry event in a true sense. It aims to address all the challenges and explore all possible opportunities in the BioAg Industry. It is a good opportunity for us to introduce our products at the Exhibition and network with delegates from across the world. We see this as a great marketing opportunity.

AgriLife is a BAW Congress 2021 sponsor. AgriLife is an innovation-triggered company with a robust product portfolio of target-oriented biologicals and botanicals. This is further deployed to formulate a wide range of Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, and Bio Stimulants. Its product range covers Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, Bio Stimulants, Nano Agri Inputs, and other Agri inputs. The recently launched product, AgriLife Rootambio®, is a natural product that nourishes and imparts vigor to the crop root system.

AgriLife groups In-house laboratory is recognized by the Govt of India, Dept of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) as an R&D unit where all innovations are met with high ethical standards and safety norms.

AgriLife's 40 strains of microbes are under an International patent deposit certificate from Budapest Treaty recognized depository and accorded accession numbers. The company has signed Access Benefit Sharing (ABS) Agreement with the state biodiversity board and pays a royalty to the habitat from where the microbes were isolated. This company also has a licensing agreement with many strains of microbes with ICAR (Indian council of agricultural research) and affiliated research centers and from Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health, Govt of India. Thus, all the microbial resources are legal and under National Biodiversity Act. Most of the products produced are approved for use in Organic Agriculture under NPOP, Govt of India. AgriLife head office is situated in Hyderabad, India with a production facility, as well as overseas affiliates situated in Singapore and the USA.

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Laia Cortel Carrasco, Managing Director, Plant Health, Bioiberica, Bioiberica logo, BioAg World Congress logo
Laia Cortel Carrasco, Managing Director, Plant Health, Bioiberica

Bioiberica pioneers in plant stress products supported with science/mode of action to help farmers understanding the benefits of biostimulant solutions and measure impact on Production/Quality in abiotic situations occurrences. We had a chance to interview Bioiberica’s Managing Director, Laia Cortel. It was an opportunity not just to better understand the BioAg industry but also to gain insight into Bioiberica’s strategy for the Industry.

Q1. BIOIBERICA has impressively grown during the past 8 years. Do you see the company continuing its sustained growth only by expanding the existing high-end biostimulants niches or do you eye other sectors such as biocontrol (or M&A, or entering new applications/markets) to become a fully functional Plant Health company?

For 30 years now, our main strategy has always been to develop the high-end biostimulant market and offer a variety of solutions adapted to each crop, country, and production system. We started the business at the national level in Spain and later, we internationalized through commercial alliances to distribute our products in different regions of the world.

Currently, we are present in more than 60 countries, and in the upcoming years, we will dedicate our commercial efforts to expanding markets such as the US, Brazil, or some key countries in the Asian continent.

Regarding other market niches, Bioiberica has been working also with the idea of ​​expanding its portfolio with Biocontrol products contributing to more sustainable control of diseases and the reduction of conventional chemical load. For this, the company does not rule out carrying out M&A transactions in the future or strategic alliances with other biotechnology companies.

In addition to the key markets mentioned and other sectors, Bioiberica has invested in bringing our technology to extensive crops. Without a doubt, this has been part of the success that has led our growth to current levels. Increasingly, these types of crops adopt innovative technologies that were previously common only in high-value crops. Agriculture is definitely changing and it is doing so at a dizzying pace!

Q2. Helping growers understand the why and how to use biostimulants is complex. Bioiberica involves researchers through distributors and crop advisors down to farmers. How relevant are these key opinion leaders and what is your role as a reliable partner for Plant Health?

Biostimulants have been accompanied by a significant lack of regulation for years. I believe that this has produced a set of challenges for the farmers to clearly understand how to use this type of product and which benefits are expected with respect to multiple market options that they have available.

Fortunately for the EU, in the new Regulation (EU) No 2019/1009 that will apply from 16 July in 2022, the Biostimulant regulatory framework is claim-based, meaning that it is the function of the product, not its composition, that defines it as a plant biostimulant. Providing both, understanding the mode of action and proving the benefits for farmers in the use of biostimulants is equally important. So we have to work in these two areas.

Bioiberica usually works with Universities & research centers to show Biostimulant activity and how to best apply our products to get better performance. In this sense, approaching Researchers and experts on physiology and agronomy is essential to keep innovating with the last technologies and knowledge. Biostimulants’ effects should be translated into claims that have value for farmers to optimize their investments of Ag inputs to get the most of theirs crops in a sustainable way. For that reason, finding crop advisors and distributors with an experienced technical team is also very important to adapt better our products programs into crop needs in different areas and specific conditions. Today, our entire distribution network plays a key role in the correct transfer and demonstration of the benefits of our products, being them a consultative reference for the farmer himself.

Q3. At the forefront of amino acid technology, Bioiberica has developed its own technology of extraction that is known as “Enzyneer”. Can you tell us a bit more about this technology and how it can impact overall biostimulant segments?

The Enzyneer® extraction technology, based on enzymatic hydrolysis, offers a natural and unique solution for obtaining bioactive compounds. It allows to maintain the amino acids in their L, biologically active form and facilitates the obtaining of L-α-amino acids, glycerolipids, and sterols that act synergically to stimulate plants' physiological processes.

The principles extracted by Enzyneer® confer greater resistance to stress, enhance the absorption of nutrients and improve the quality of the obtained fruits. Its effectiveness has been contrasted with photosynthesis regulation studies, bioassays of hormone-like activity, and analysis of gene expression and proteomics. The Enzyneer® technology is a new development that allows the farmer to obtain greater safety and optimum performance in their crops, by protecting them from stressful situations. In return, Biostimulants obtained by enzymatic hydrolysis play an important role in the fight against climate change, since they allow more respectful crop management with the environment and compatible with organic farming.

Q4. BIOIBERICA has been pioneering the use of amino acids in crops and countries even in new areas. What go-to-market you successfully incorporate for the use of amino acid-based biostimulant in the crop programs especially fruits and vegetables?

Looking back, the use of amino acids as plant Biostimulants in Europe started more than 40 years ago. Initially, these products were regarded as foliar feeds with Organic Nitrogen but the fact that there was little research that could back their use and benefits deterred many growers from accepting their use. However, farmers growing high-value crops, such as vegetables and fruits, in the intensive agricultural regions of South Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece) soon realized that their crops had a positive response when using amino acid Biostimulants under environmentally stressful conditions.

The fact that these products are of natural origin, leaving no residues, and the development of country regulations have helped the rapid establishment of these products as part of the technology farmers use to grow their crops aiming to maximize yields and fruit quality. It is important to remark though that nowadays the use of amino acid-based Biostimulants is no longer exclusively being adopted in high-value vegetable and fruit crops but more and more in row crops such as cereals and oilseeds.

The cost/benefit of their use and the increasing demand for environmentally friendly products that help reduce other inputs such as fertilizers and plant protection products are factors worth considering to incorporate these products in today’s farmers' technologies.

Q5. How do you see BioAg World congress as a platform to gain “brand exposure”, and which would be the main impact you foresee to increase business in the US?

Certainly, we see our participation in the BioAg World congress as a great opportunity to increase our visibility worldwide. BIOIBERICA has a lot to offer to partners that can be interested in differentiated products that are strongly backed with science work with the experience of being long time established in many markets.

The US market, in particular, is a very challenging one, not only due to its big size but also to the fact that it is highly demanding and technically developed. For this reason, we believe that our participation in the BioAg World Congress, which was set to be in California, is even more compelled as the objectives of the organization and the ones of Bioiberica totally converge. We are very hopeful that this will be a successful one and that it will pave the way for future ones when all participants will be able to physically meet with each other.

Bioiberica is a sponsor and supporter of BioAgWorld Congress 2021. Laia will be participating in the Congress. Do join us for the congress to hear more from Laia and many distinguished speakers from the industry and gain insights.

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Photo of Diego Casanello, UPL Logo, BAW Congress logo
Diego Casanello

We are proud to share that UPL, the global leader in agriculture, is BAW Congress 2021 supporter and sponsor. UPL has revolutionized the industry with its innovative products. It has an exceptional R&D facility and is committed to sustainability. Their passion to take innovations from lab to land and stewardship and safety have made them stand out. We share below our interaction with UPL – COO, Diego Casanello on BioAg Industry, its growth, scope, and challenges.

Q1. Increasing concern for the environment and consumer awareness for quality produce has paved the way for bio-agriculture. How comfortable are agri-input companies with the thought of bio-agriculture replacing conventional agriculture?

UPL sees this trend as an opportunity. Our company is today the leader in natural crop protection products, and we expect this business to grow. At the same time, and for the foreseeable future, we know that bio-solutions alone will not be able to provide all the answers to the challenges that growers face to produce the amount of food that the world population demands. We are intensively investing in R&D to expand the toolbox of bio-based products. In the meantime, we look for a sustainable balance between all available crop management solutions, including natural crop protection. Our Pronutiva program, for example, combines both BioSolutions and conventional crop protection during the life cycle of each crop.

Q2. UPL is a leader in the agri-input industry, delivering crop protection solutions for decades. What measures should governments and corporations undertake to ensure the quality of bioag inputs in the market and curb spurious pesticides?

Quality agri-inputs are a vital part of food production & food security which cannot be overlooked by any stakeholder, including governments who have responsibilities for their own people. Corporations are also responsible to communities across the world where they operate. We welcome the efforts by many governments to establish guidelines and standards for bio-based plant protection. The many serious companies in this space want to make sure that we grow the bioag sector in a responsible manner and that we have clear and consistent rules that allow to plan for long-term R&D investments.

Q3. With UPL’s strong R&D background, what do you feel could be the next path-breaking innovation in bio-Agriculture?

We believe that the future of more sustainable agriculture lies in the combination of three promising technologies. We are talking about artificial intelligence, robotics, and genomics. These new emerging technologies will create a big shift in almost all industries, including our own. Farmers will be able to use resources like water, soil, and inputs, multiple times more efficiently. At the same time, our plant protection products will become more effective and target specific. These technologies will make regenerative agriculture possible, which in turn will help us improve the carbon footprint of the entire industry.

We recently inaugurated our OpenAgTM R&D Center in the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. OpenAg, among other things, stands for open collaboration and open innovation. This global R&D hub has great state-of-the-art laboratories, greenhouses, and collaboration spaces. Here is where all these disruptive technologies are tested and combined to produce solutions that can solve big problems. We’re partnering with innovative entrepreneurs to rapidly onboard and evaluate new technologies. It takes much more than one company to transform a food system. We need to work and think as a network.

Q4. UPL clearly sees the bioag industry as one of the major growth areas hence the acquisition of Arysta. What do you see as the prime market for bioag inputs and what customized solutions do you intend to bring in?

The merger of Arysta LifeScience and UPL provided a terrific opportunity to combine two strong companies with complementary portfolios and become a leader in the space. Now we have bio-ag products addressing the physiological needs for every stage of the plant lifecycle. We specialize in soil and seed health, plant stress, plant nutrition, and biocontrol. When researching for the next generation of input products, we follow closely consumer trends and farmer needs. Helping farmers eliminate chemical residues in fresh produce is a key focus area. Making plants more resilient to climate change is another. And, of course, producing more with less remains a huge objective.

Today we are making giant steps in our understanding of how genes in plants, insects, or pathogens work. This can help us develop products that can naturally induce the plant to behave in a certain way or eliminate a fungus in a very targeted way.

Q5. How do you see BioAg World Congress as the right platform to gain required exposure and opportunities in Global BioAg Industry?

The BioAg World Congress brings the industry together, creating a global network to raise awareness and focus on biosolutions and sustainable agriculture, to build partnerships, and share our visions, knowledge, and experience. Through UPL’s OpenAg purpose, we are opening doors for partners to collaborate with us to create a more sustainable future. We look forward to meeting entrepreneurs with great and disruptive ideas.

UPL is actively participating in BAW Congress 2021. Anil Rohra, Global Head, Portfolio Alliances and M&A-Biosolutions, UPL will share his thoughts and experience in the congress. Join us to learn from the collective experience of the industry leaders and the stories of multinational companies, their challenges, opportunities, and how they paved their way forward. Rush to register!

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