Biological Products: BASF Discusses the Promise and Potential Presented by Asia Pacific

Biological products remain a relatively small part of the crop input industry, but the promise has manufacturers around the world working to ensure they’re able to take advantage of the potential. The Asia Pacific market is no exception. With consumers increasingly interested in how their food is grown and agriculture’s impact on the environment, it’s no wonder industry players are working to join the rush to sustainable products.

From small independent enterprises to multinationals, companies across the globe have worked to develop or acquire biological solutions for end users. Global ag input giant BASF is excited about the potential of the Asia Pacific market for many of its products, including biologicals. On its website, the company uses the Tagalog (Filipino) word “kilig,” which means “the feeling of having butterflies in one’s tummy,” to creatively describe the enormous promise of the region. The company then goes on to say: “For the BASF, Asia means also a promising future market.”

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Gustavo Palerosi Carneiro, Senior Vice President Agricultural Solutions Asia Pacific, BASF

AgriBusiness Global interviewed Gustavo Palerosi Carneiro, Senior Vice President Agricultural Solutions Asia Pacific at BASF, to learn more about how the company views biological products and its plans for the region.

“We continue our commitment to identify and bring to market biological solutions that work together with chemical offers as these are crucial for growers’ continued success worldwide,” Palerosi says. Palerosi also serves as President of CropLife Asia.

ABG: How would you characterize the current state of the biological market in Asia Pacific?

Palerosi: The biologicals market in Asia Pacific is — compared to conventional crop protection products — still small, but with a large growth potential.

ABG: What factors are driving changes to the biological market in Asia Pacific? 

Palerosi: The growth of biological solutions in Asia Pacific is mainly being driven by the requirements of export markets like the EU which are tightening regulations on the use of some conventional pesticides, as well as local consumer and customer demand for more sustainably grown food. Thus, more growers are showing growing interest in alternative solutions. High value fruit and vegetables (e.g., berries, grapes) that are eaten fresh, along with crops grown in greenhouses, are the most promising segments.

The cost of treatment using biologicals tends to be higher when comparing to the latest conventional solutions. And often biological solutions require more frequent applications. I hope that through further innovation, we can help farmers overcome these hurdles – while on the other side, consumers and governments need to be willing to pay more for more sustainably grown crops.

ABG: What are the challenges with growing the biological side of the industry? 

Palerosi: The pandemic has certainly disrupted the supply chain for many industries, and agriculture is no exception. From raw material sourcing to local distribution, many companies are facing a number of challenges in order to continue to supply customers.

ABG: Where and what are the biggest opportunities for biologicals? 

Palerosi: Foliar-applied biocontrol agents are a valuable tool in integrated pest management (IPM) programs, providing growers with more options such as flexible working practices with shorter re-entry intervals, extended windows of disease and insect protection, as well as harvest timings, and resistance management.

Biological seed treatments are another emerging segment in Asia Pacific. The additional benefits from the seed application of biological products include nitrogen fixation and improved yield and quality outcomes.

ABG: What role should manufacturers (like BASF) play, if any, in the promoting the biological products market?

Palerosi: BASF is playing a very active role in the development and promotion of biological crop protection solutions both globally and in Asia Pacific. BASF has in-depth experience in fermentation and formulation technologies for biologicals, and we will continue to expand our technology base in this area.

As we expand our BioSolutions portfolio, we tailor our solutions to local markets so that we can meet the needs of farmers and value chain partners. On top of that, we educate farmers about the benefits of our biological solutions.

ABG: What’s next for the biological industry (e.g., products, services, business opportunities)?

Palerosi: Moving forward, BASF is focused on enhancing the value that biologicals can bring through increased efficacy, improved application technologies, and additional plant health benefits beyond pest and disease control. Our efforts also include the necessary steps to make those new solutions available in the market through regulatory work. As the segment matures further, there will be a lot more opportunity for new products and services in the marketplace. One promising area for growth is partnerships between established companies like BASF and start-ups and new innovators in this space.

ABG: As the president of CropLife Asia, what role does that organization play in promoting the use of these products?

Palerosi: BASF and other companies in the Plant Science industry are focused on the discovery and development of sustainable solutions to help farmers to produce safe, nutritious, accessible, and affordable food with lower environmental impact. Through CropLife Asia, we continue to partner with governments, civil society, and food supply chain stakeholders to advance the responsible use of all crop protection technologies across the region.

CropLife Asia advocates for greater availability of all innovative farming technologies to our region’s smallholder farmers, including biological solutions. Via outreach to regional regulators, CropLife Asia supports and shares best practices for functional biopesticides regulations that are science-based, transparent, predictable and enable the delivery of new innovative products to the market. With more smallholder farmers calling Asia Pacific home than anywhere in the world, empowering these growers with the latest technologies to manage their production challenges and needs is more critical than ever.

ABG: What else do we need to know? 

Palerosi: A few examples of BASF biological solutions being commercialized or introduced in Asia Pacific are the following:

  • Serifel is a biological fungicide with multiple modes of action based on Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain MBI600. It has a favorable toxicological and environmental profile that makes it very safe for users, the environment, and consumers, allowing for greater flexibility throughout the growing cycle. It is currently being used on fruit and vegetable crops in Thailand, Korea, and Australia. We hope to bring Serifel to China in the future as well.
  • Velifer is a biological insecticide effective against pests that have developed resistance to conventional insecticides and can be used right up to harvest. Each milliliter of Velifer contains about 8 billion fungal spores. On contact with the target insect, the spores germinate and secrete enzymes that weaken the insect, leading to death in 24-48 hours. Velifer is currently being sold in Australia.
  • Nodulaid and Nodulator are biological inoculants that offer nitrogen fixation using different strains of rhizobia bacteria for legume and pulse crops. They are currently being manufactured in Australia and sold in Australia and New Zealand.