Certis Belchim’s Kevin Price Shares Insights in Biologicals Market
Certis Belchim, a union of Certis Europe and Belchim Crop Protection, based in the Netherlands, specializes in crop protection, product development, registration, and marketing. They take a unique approach in traditional crop protection chemicals and biologicals. Kevin Price, Corporate Marketing Manager for Certis Europe, shares insights with AgriBusiness Global on their strategy, new product offerings, and the challenges that come with product registration in the European Union (EU).
ABG: What biological products do you think will grow for 2023?
KP: In broad terms, biostimulants have demonstrated the most significant growth in recent years and are likely to continue to do so in 2023 and onwards, probably until they fall under EU legislation. However, biological products in general have shown a high rate of growth, estimated at 7% per annum CAGR over the last five years. This supports the importance that Certis Belchim places on biologicals and spending 50% of its R&D investment on biorationals is a clear indicator that we expect strong growth to continue across the sector.
ABG: Do you see Certis Belchim’s strategy of offering traditional crop protection chemicals and biologicals becoming a trend for mid-sized crop protection companies in the next year? Five years?
KP: A very much ‘hazard-’ rather than ‘risk’-based regulatory focus in the EU has led to the removal of many crop protection products that had been relied upon by farmers and growers. The registration of new products remains a major challenge, but biological products tend to be lower risk and using them in programs with conventional chemical products points to a more sustainable future for crop protection. The key strategy of Certis Belchim over a number of years has been the development of such programs using chemical products alongside biorationals, and we feel that this is exactly the right strategy to follow in terms of the market and the regulatory situation in which we work. A number of competitors now have a biological portfolio through acquisition, a sure indication that they see this as a requirement for the future. Whether they will follow our long-established strategy of combining biorationals with conventional products remains to be seen. Certis Belchim is actively pursuing such developments and certainly sees these programs becoming increasingly important over the next five years.
ABG: How has your company expanded to incorporate both and remain profitable?
KP: Our shareholders (Mitsui & Co. Ltd., ISK, Nisso, Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc. and Kumiai) have been active in acquisitions and we are currently in the process of merging two established businesses, Certis Europe and Belchim Crop Protection that now form Certis Belchim. Both companies had conventional chemical products and Certis Europe also had a long-established history in developing and marketing biological products. The product portfolios are extremely complementary and the opportunity for further expansion of the business footprint outside of Europe, afforded by the existing territories of legacy company Belchim Crop Protection, is a key part of the shareholders’ growth strategy.
ABG: Certis Belchim has more than 25 new product development projects. Of these, 45% are expected to reach the market within 5 years. How has your team approached developing these new products?
KP: The product pipeline is clearly vital to the future of the business and is a fundamental activity for us. We are therefore resourced appropriately having made significant investment to ensure that we have the capabilities to develop new products to bring to market. Certis Belchim has the capacity for central and local development management capability, and its own good lab practices (GLPs)-accredited trials farms in Belgium and France, facilitating inhouse trials and demonstrations when nearing market readiness. Contract research organizations (CROs) are involved in the preparation of registration dossiers for new products, supported by our own accredited trials results. A dedicated biorationals innovation team screens potential new products, operating a stage gate development process that requires certain criteria to be met before a product can move through to the next stage of development. Constant monitoring and review inform decisions that are taken in a fully integrated development, regulatory and marketing process, linked to and aligned with our marketing strategy. Our crop focus approach brings a clear view on the viability of each project.
ABG: How does your company deal with costly and lengthy EU registration process?
KP: Like any other company, our decision to invest in the registration process is based on the business case and the development project for the product. The registration cost is an integral part of that business case and the integrated development process we have in place. We place significant importance on the regulatory function and the investment made in our expert regulatory team is a clear indication of that. As a company we are very much aware of the need to invest in skills and capabilities in this area. It is also a significant area of interest for our Japanese shareholders.
ABG: What product is your company most excited about for 2023?
KP: Problad is a new and exciting biorational with a novel and unique mode of action. It was discovered in Portugal by CEV and is the first plant protection product based on an extract from sweet lupin seeds. Certis Belchim entered into an exclusive agreement with CEV for the development and registration of this exciting new product in Europe. In the current context of European Union ambitions to move to sustainable food production, reducing chemical pesticide usage and increasing organic farming, as well as food chain requirements, limiting residues in foods, this product offers numerous advantages. Coming from a natural source, it can be used in both organic and conventional farming and is compatible with integrated pest management (IPM) programs as well as a large majority of conventional plant protection products (PPP). Not only does it provide good and reliable control of a broad-spectrum of fungal diseases (powdery mildew, botrytis, monilia, rice blast) on a wide range of crops (grapes, fruits, vegetables, rice, etc.) and leave no residue, but it is also a key tool for resistance management. Certis Belchim plans to roll this product out across the EU from 2023 and beyond in the next few years.
ABG: Is there anything else you would like to add?
KP: Despite the challenges of the crop protection market, this is an exciting time for companies like Certis Belchim, with its strong position in biologicals and conventional chemicals. We are not tied by the structure of the company and are not required to feed large and expensive chemical production plants with orders. We have the benefit of research and development based manufacturers in our shareholders and other suppliers, as well as others in the Mitsui family, such as sister company, Certis Biologicals. With these advantages and as a medium-sized company, we feel that we are very much in tune with the market and can be more agile in our response to changes than others.