The need to reduce chemical use is driving the uptake of biologicals. While the industry has a long way to go before it can match the success of traditional synthetic crop protection products, its growing influence in the market cannot be ignored. AgriBusiness Global magazine spoke with Thomas Mason, the President of BioProtection Global, on issues facing the industry:
Q. What’s been the impetus behind the growth of biological products?
Tom Mason: In the early 2000s there were very few regulations or calls on farmers to reduce chemicals. Over the years there has been a massive shift from consumers, regulators, and retailers in terms of the produce being sold. Across the globe there is massive pressure to reduce chemical use. As a result, biological products are becoming more important. It is an exciting time for our industry because we are developing products to allow farmers to meet market demands.
Q. What is the level of uptake of biological products?
TM: Developing countries — Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, and most equatorial nations — are growing for export markets. Farmers are feeling the pressure to improve yields with smaller margins. Over the past 10 years, there has been very little increase in agricultural prices for fresh produce compared to the prices of commodities. Despite this, agrochemical prices have risen at the same rate as petrol prices. This means farmers have a much smaller margin, and the only way to improve that is through improved yields. Farmers have realized biologicals, as well as biostimulants, have a significant impact in improving yields, which results in farming earning a more economically sustainable practice.
Q. How biological products compare to conventional pesticides?
TM: Across the globe, biologicals are regulated in exactly the same way as traditional agrochemicals. What that means is that if a company is developing a solution and wants to place that product in the market, the company has to prove to the local agricultural regulator that the product works as well or better than the existing most common solutions in the market.
Q. How would you describe market growth of the biological industry?
TM: We estimate the biological market to be worth more than $4 billion and growing at double digits compounded annual growth rate. As the President of Bioprotection Global, my goal is to oversee a rapid expansion of the industry, something we are seeing from the mergers and acquisitions activities embedded within the industry. Even big chemical companies like Bayer, Monsanto, and others recognize the importance of biologicals and biostimulants and want to acquire companies in this segment.