The biologicals market is maturing with commercial products providing defined benefits, and more major crop protection companies are expanding into the business. UPL, a global ag solutions company, started its Natural Plant Protection business about a year ago, and recently announced a new strategic partnership that will expand that business.
NPP is entering a strategic collaboration with Kimitec’s MAAVi Innovation Center. Based in Spain, Kimitec will deliver tailored biosolution technologies to the United States.
“You’ve probably seen our OpenAg information, which is really about collaboration,” says Jim Petta, UPL NPP head for North America. “Products we market don’t have to be invented here. We have our own products we’re developing, but we are working together with partners such as Kimitec to bring new technology to the market.”
The challenge for many biological companies, many of whom are startups, is market access. Even global players developing tools outside the United States are finding access to the market a challenge, Petta explains.
With this new collaboration, MAAVi IC gets access to U.S. farmers with products focused in promoting optimal plant development, improved yields and crop quality. Under the agreement, MAAVi IC provides the technology and Kimitec the distribution rights for five biostimulant and innovative nutrition products that UPL is registering to market for multiple crops in the U.S.
More than control
Many biological products have been developed for controlling pests, including insects and diseases. But these new products are focused on plant health and production. “The plant health benefit is much more difficult to convey to a farmer,” Petta says. “What is the value of that? What is the value of making the plant healthier? What did it do for me? Those are questions we have to answer.”
He notes the short answer is not “2 bushels per acre.” Now, the conversation includes not only yield but also whether the product checks boxes for, say, carbon or soil health.
Petta says 2022 is for testing products under U.S. farm conditions, verifying the value of these new products and creating a kind of scorecard for the farmer. “We are making a big effort to quantify these benefits now, so we can say, ‘When you do this, this is the scorecard I can give you,’” he says.
UPL is already the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of biosolutions. Petta says those products are a core pillar of the company’s global purpose and work to reimagine sustainability for food systems.
First 5 products
The collaboration will bring five new products with various uses to market. Here are the new products including initial target crops:
1. Alfa. The soil amendment combines two soil probiotics to optimize access to water and nutrients in crops. The product is being registered for use for vegetable crops, strawberries and berries, tree nuts (almond and pistachio), pome fruit and citrus, and vine and row crops. Organic Materials Review Institute approval is pending.
2. Velexi. The fermented concentrate of soil prebiotics promotes activity in soil microorganisms, leading to improved aeration, nutrient availability and root development. It is being registered for cereals, corn, sunflower, sugarbeets, soybeans, pulses and cotton. OMRI approval is pending.
3. Moto. The plant nutritional supplement supplies nitrogen to crops and may help optimize conditions for resistance to abiotic stress. It is being registered for cotton, soybean, corn, vegetables, citrus and fruit trees, grapes, berries, and root and tuber crops.
4. Serenis. The root enhancement liquid formulation helps develop a plant’s root system. Registered crops will include greenhouse and outdoor vegetables, pome fruits, citrus, strawberries, and vine crops. OMRI approval is pending.
5. Cevo. The liquid fertilizer provides nitrogen to crops through a unique formulation process that combines enzymatic hydrolysis and bacterial fermentation. It supports plant metabolism at critical stages for better plant performance. It will be registered for certain vegetables, fruits, strawberries, vine crops and cereals. OMRI approval is pending.
Petta, who has a long history in the crop protection business, says all five of these products may have broader uses, but these are where they are focusing for now. “Often biologicals are pushed to work everywhere, but we wanted to be sure so we are focusing on these specific areas to start,” he says.
You can learn more about the collaboration and UPL by visiting upl-ltd.com.