CropLife Retail Week: BASF, AgroLiquid Highlight Road Trip; Bayer’s Substitute for Glyphosate

Eric Sfiligoj and Lara Sowinski discuss their recent journeys through the states of Michigan and North Carolina, as well as Bayer’s alternative AI for glyphosate.

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Edited Video Transcript

Eric Sfiligoj: Hello. Welcome to another edition of Crep Life retail week. I’m Eric Sfilogoj, Editor, CropLife here again with Laura Sowinski. Laura, how are you doing today?

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Lara Sowinski: Pretty good, pretty good. Thank you. Back from a whirlwind of a trip to North Carolina.

ES: Yes, you and I, we’re a little bit road wary, this week, as we were recording this video, I know myself, I actually made a trek up to Saint John’s, Michigan to visit with the folks at AgroLiquid Fertilizer.

And, I was there for a very special cause. Of course, in journalism, they always talk about firsts, lasts and always as very, very newsworthy. And this was a first for AgroLiquid, which was the first company to have its biostimulant called C-Tech, to be certified through the new Fertilizer Institute biostimulant certification program. So it was up there with the folks and they were celebrating that.

And, Corey Rosenbusch, the President and CEO of TFI, was on hand. And this is what he had to say about C-Tech earning the certification on behalf of TFI Agro Liquid.

Corey Rosenbusch: It is the very first biostimulant that we are awarding in the history of the certification. We started on this journey, probably, I don’t know, ten years ago. It’s been a long time that’s been working on it. but I remember very fondly when I arrived at TFI and had a chance to go out and visit some ag retailers, that it was a co-op actually in, in central Iowa. And, the leadership there was doing a bit of a presentation to kind of help me understand ag retail and how they sell to growers.

And, in the process, the leader was talking about what he believed were were the transformational moments in agriculture. In his opinion, mechanization was kind of the first step. Biotechnology, you know, some of, the GMO, technology that we had, that allow us to have abundant crops was the second kind of evolution.

And then he said, I believe that the third biggest evolution that will happen that’s coming in agriculture will be biologicals and some of the new fertilizer, crop nutrient technologies that enhance efficiency products that we have to offer. And I he believed that that was going to be that next transformation, for the industry. He said the problem is we don’t understand it.

We don’t know what it is. Our agronomists have hundreds of products coming across their desk every day, and we don’t have the bandwidth or the resources to evaluate them. And our growers think they’re all, forgive me for using the word, snake oil. If there’s one thing the ag retailer needs right now is some sort of a standard that we can help our agronomists evaluate these products.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we still are going to test them. We’re still going to have to do our field trials with our growers. But boy, it would be helpful if we had that as a tool. So the the Biostimulant Council that had been been brought under two, five, four years ago at that point, started to look at the standard that was developed that really defined, biostimulants by efficacy, testing methods, composition and safety.

And those those three items really became the standard that we’ve used to translate into the certification program that we’re here to honor and recognize AgroLiquid. And I believe that co-op was exactly right. That will be the tool that they and growers and agronomists all across the country will be able to use to identify the products that meet that rigor, that meet that baseline standards, so that they can make those recommendations to those growers.

ES: So that’s what TFI’s Corey Rosenbusch had to say regarding AgroLiquid attaining this certification for C-Tech biostimulant. Again on behalf of CropLife and everyone here, our congratulations to you folks for being the first biostimulant certified under this new program. So that was that was my little trip for the week.

Let the viewers know about what you’ve been doing in the great state of North Carolina this past week.

LS: Well, I had such a, extensive trip, I don’t even, I couldn’t even recount, everything we did. It’s going to take me a couple days to kind of go over the notes and just the high points. So, our colleague, Rick Welder and I, were in North Carolina Research Triangle Park area this week meeting with a lot of folks. Big and small players in the biopesticides, enzymes, peptides space. What a learning experience. A lot of highlights that I’ll be able to share, in the coming weeks as part our crop protection series for CropLife magazine throughout the year.

But our April issue of CropLife is out, and, I was lucky enough to have the cover story and highlighted some of the information and discussions I had with, Bayer and Valiant USA, and, a Q&A with the Mosaic folks as well.

And so, CropLife, the digital edition, is online. Folks that want to look at that can visit for the digital edition and you can check that out. But, there is so much to go over, like I said. But one thing that our last visit when we were in North Carolina, was with the third party testing lab.

The name of the lab is Avazyme Lab. Volker Bornemann is the president and CEO. We met with Volker and his research scientist, Jen Heath. And, well, we really learned a lot. It was a nice way to kind of conclude the trip after, talking with folks from Bayer, BASF, Nufarm, etc..

It really kind of helped Todd tie the bow on what we were seeing. And, you know, it’s such a, hotbed really for, activity and, larger by a rational bio, a biological space. So it was really helpful to kind of conclude with that visit with Volker. But, he actually came, up through BASF early in his career and, 2014, he started the lab down in the RTP area. Most of the work they’re doing right now is with the biopesticides companies, particularly those, of course, that don’t have that R&D that the huge agribusiness companies have.

Doing that in-house. He is doing work for both biopesticides, as well as conventional chemistries. They do a lot of custom work. So they’re in the ag space. They’re in pharma and food as well. And, really, they have a fantastic lab.

They’re a smaller company that’s able to really move quickly. Somebody needs the work done, custom work done. Well, they’ll kind of do the whole thing from A to Z. Due to their size and their expertise, that’s where they’ve really carved out a niche for themselves as far as a third-party testing lab and that space.

So, they really have a nice little piece of business there that they attend to. In fact, we were even learning about microtoxins. And, again, our colleague Rick and I were just furiously writing notes. And we, were able to get a nice little tour of the lab. But, I did want to say thanks again to Volker and Jen for their hospitality and for showing us around.

We also had a wonderful visit with the folks at BASF. Talked to a lot of people, and they have a sustainability center that is out of sight. Absolutely incredible. And so often when I’m talking to people and I’m sure you’ve heard this as well, I hear people say, you know, as, people in the ag space, sometimes we need to tell our story better. There seems to be a disconnect, not only within the industry, but certainly with others outside.

Boy, talk about telling the story. This sustainability center, we now have some pictures that we can share in the coming week or so. Just incredible. Not only did they host people within the industry, but school groups and outside groups.

Overall, just a fantastic trip. So yeah, it sounds it sounds like a really good trip in years. As viewers, as Laura mentioned in, in the upcoming weeks, we’ll have some more information as each digests gets a little bit of sleep and, digs through all our photographs and finds the best ones to share.

ES: So stay tuned for more information on these companies. But again, thanks to all of them that rolled out the red carpet for you and Mr. Rick Welder to come and visit and find out more about what was going on with them in the marketplace. So absolutely. Well, before I leave the topic section completely, I have an item to share.

I ran across. This is kind of interesting piece from our friends at Bayer. Of course, you know, they’ve been in the news a lot in recent years because, of course, they’ve had all these court battles, involving glyphosate and, you know, basically spent a lot of time in the courtroom. But they actually are doing a little lab work. And there was an item I ran across that said that Bayer is hopeful that they’re going to be able to introduce what they’re calling a substitute for glyphosate, a new active ingredient. And they’re hoping to get out into the marketplace in the next four years by 2028. And according to their chief executive, Bill Anderson, he said that they are currently testing this new substance on plants right now. So, again, they’re hoping that within the next four years, this substitute for glyphosate will be introduced into the crop protection market for agriculture.

So stay tuned on that.