Top 7 Formulation Challenges Facing the Agrochemical Industry

Image Credit: Formulation

The growing demand for better stability and performance of fertilizers, crop protection products and growth agents means that agrochemical producers are constantly trying to create more effective formulations.

On top of that, agrochemical companies are being pushed to develop new sustainable solutions such as biodegradable capsules, drone-friendly viscous pesticide concentrates and sustainable formulations based on plant extracts, a move towards automation and sustainability in agriculture means.

In this article, seven significant challenges facing the agrochemical industry today will be described, and how Formaction’s equipment – Fluidicam and Turbiscanfor example – help agrochemical developers quickly develop effective solutions.

1. Multi-active ingredient formulations

Multi-active ingredient agrochemical formulations can lead to substantial efficiencies for farmers. Since there are multiple active ingredients in one product, the number of applications required is reduced, saving time and money.

However, the formulation of products with multiple active ingredients is much more complex than the mixture of various phytosanitary agents. The interactions that can occur between active ingredients are not always desired, and all active ingredients have their own pH and moisture requirements.

To avoid chemical degradation of multi-active products, new techniques, such as oil dispersion (OD), encapsulation and water-disposable granules (WG) must be used.1.2

It is rarely a simple process when it comes to developing stable agrochemical formulations using these techniques – but the process can be greatly simplified using Turbiscan, which provides detailed information on parameters such as stability and dispersibility.

using static multiple light scattering (SMLS) technologythe Turbiscan offers accelerated development of new agrochemicals through fast and accurate characterization of sedimentation and average particle size without dilution.

2. Switch to oil dispersions

In addition to providing increased stability of moisture-sensitive ingredients, oil dispersions (OD) can act as adjuvants and increase the potency of other compounds. In an effort to realize these benefits, agrochemical manufacturers are turning more to OD formulations, but this shift requires development time.

Using Turbiscan technology can speed up critical parts of the development process, such as choosing medium and dispersant and optimizing emulsification process conditions.

For the first time, the Turbiscan DnS allows formulators to passively measure parameters such as dispersibility and solubility at full concentration. With an integrated mixer and loop function, the DnS allows formulators to test the impact of process conditions such as on the bench or inline.

3. Replacing microplastics in capsule suspension (CS) and fluid seed treatment (FS) formulations

Encapsulation has long provided a way to combine incompatible compounds, improve stability, and control the release of active ingredients in response to environmental conditions.3

Encapsulation techniques, despite their advantages, rely on the use of non-biodegradable synthetic polymers, which remain in the environment as microplastics. Agrochemical manufacturers are now aiming to move towards biodegradable alternatives.

Accurate comparison of these new polymers with their less environmentally friendly counterparts can be simplified using the Turbiscan Stability Index (TSI) for stability and shelf life prediction.

Image Credit: Formulation

4. Improve the stability of the microbial formulation

Microbial formulations that use live microbes to stimulate plant growth and control pests are a relatively new development, showing promise as a sustainable approach to supplementing conventional agrochemicals.4

One of the many challenges preventing the large-scale commercialization of microbial formulations is the need to develop formulations that can remain stable for over a year under various environmental conditions.

When developing successful microbial formulations, agrochemical manufacturers must constantly modify the formulations until the desired performance is achieved. The Turbiscan can reduce the time it takes to see how these adjustments affect stability by a factor of 1000.

5. Location of agricultural formulations

Location is a key concept in the agrochemical industry, where geographic variations in soil chemistry, ecology, climate and legislation can all impact the viability of a given formulation.

Optimizing an agrochemical for various regions of the world requires careful development and testing to ensure efficacy, safety and compliance with regulatory requirements.

The Turbiscan gives agrochemical researchers the ability to quickly characterize the stability of different formulations, accelerating the development of region-specific products.

6. Formulation for drone applications and precision agriculture

Precision agriculture is an agricultural method based on measuring and responding to crop variability on small areas.

Drones, capable of automatically performing detailed assessments of crop health variability and deploying targeted agrochemical solutions in the form of growth agents or crop protection, are one of the main enablers of agriculture precision.5

To formulate agrochemical solutions for drone applications, high concentration viscous products must be developed to minimize mass. Formulating them is a challenge in itself, and they are also likely to be non-Newtonian fluids.

Formulaction’s Fluidicam is an optical rheometer that characterizes flow characteristics using microfluidics. This allows agrochemical researchers to assess the performance of concentrated formulations under realistic drone spraying conditions in a way that is both fast and accurate.

Image Credit: Formulation

7. Use plant extracts

Botanical pesticides based on plant extracts offer many advantages over synthetic compounds: they are generally very specific and non-persistent in the environment and have a lower environmental load.6

There is an enormous wealth of unused biochemical resources in the natural world – but isolating and working with unknown compounds can be challenging, especially given the effect they can have on the stability of base formulations.

Finding a balance between profitability and stability can be a daunting task when using only visual stability metrics.

However, the Turbiscan saves agrochemical developers time when it comes to developing stable plant-based formulations.

Formulation develops state-of-the-art solutions for materials characterization, including Fluidicam optical rheology system and the Turbiscan stability analyzer. To learn more about how systems accelerate agrochemical development, contact the company today.

References and further reading

  1. Hack, B. et al. Advanced agrochemical formulations through encapsulation strategies? Chemistry Engineer Technik 84223-234 (2012).
  2. ​Mulqueen, P. Recent Advances in Agrochemical Formulation. Advances in the Science of Colloids and Interfaces 10683-107 (2003).
  3. Tylkowski, B. et al. 11. Encapsulation technologies in agriculture. in Microencapsulation (eds. Tylkowski, B., Giamberini, M. & Fernandez Prieto, S.) 287–302 (De Gruyter, 2020). doi:10.1515/9783110642070-011.
  4. ​Montesinos, E. Development, registration and commercialization of microbial pesticides for plant protection. International Microbiology 6245-252 (2003).
  5. ​Puri, V., Nayyar, A. & Raja, L. Agricultural drones: a modern breakthrough in precision agriculture. Journal of Statistics and Management Systems 20507-518 (2017).
  6. ​Laxmishree, C. & Singh, N. Botanical pesticides – a major alternative to chemical pesticides: A review. 722–729 (2017).

This information has been extracted, revised and adapted from documents provided by Formulaction.

For more information on this source, please visit Formulation.

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