Multi-faceted Biological Growth Continues
Biological products to protect crop health, promote growth and enhance fertility are still a single digital percentage of the $40 billion crop protection market. However, that hasn’t stopped industry participants from placing bets on continued growth. Recent acquisitions such as Becker Underwood by BASF, Pasteuria and DevGen by Syngenta, and AgraQuest and Prophyta by Bayer are only a few examples of a change in the game. That change has had an impact on those acquired, but an even bigger impact on the market segment itself.
click image to zoomAshish Malik, vice president, global marketing, Biologics for Bayer “The biggest difference is Bayer has a totally different market reach than we ever could imagine at AgraQuest,” said Ashish Malik, vice president, global marketing, Biologics for Bayer. “Previously we depended on third-party relationships with companies like BASF as well as Bayer, but we were never fully integrated into the product positioning from a strategic perspective. Now, as part of the Bayer team, our understanding of the products and how to manage these assets, combined with our colleagues’ understanding of the market, the customer and the pests and diseases, will take our business to the broad-acre markets of corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton.”
Malik, who spent five years with AgraQuest before making the transition to Bayer, pointed to the investment Bayer is making in biologics. The division is moving to a new facility with three times the capacity, and R&D budgets have increased significantly. More important than the expanded labs is access to field stations around the world, where leads can be evaluated in field situations sooner, something simply not possible as a smaller, standalone company.
Product development has changed as well, added Malik. “Poncho/Votivo is an excellent example of integrating a chemistry with a biologic,” he said. “We were always good at science, but now we set research priorities by crop and target. We are doing thousands of trials with products at Bayer, like the strobilurins and others, looking for complementary activity. There is a lot of interest in fruit and vegetables, but also in broad-acre crops, and we are only a year or two away from some pretty aggressive launches.”
BIOLOGICAL INDUSTRY IS EXPANDING
The marketplace impact of such purchases has been significant as well. “Until five or six years ago, the leaders in the biologicals market were Japanese companies like Mitsui and Sumitomo that had been in the business for decades,” recalled Malik. “With the entry of companies like Bayer and others, the credibility of the industry has increased dramatically.”