Top 7 Formulation Challenges Facing the Agrochemical Industry

Image Credit: Formulaction

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

As well as this, agrochemical companies are being pushed to develop new, future-proof solutions such as biodegradable capsules, viscous drone-compatible pesticide concentrates and sustainable formulations based on plant extracts, a shift toward both automation and sustainability in agriculture means.

In this article,  seven significant challenges facing the agrochemical industry today will be outlined, and how equipment from Formulaction – Fluidicam and Turbiscan, for example – are helping agrochemical developers develop effective solutions quickly.

1. Multi-Active Ingredient Formulations

Multi-active ingredient agrochemical formulations can lead to substantial gains in efficiency for farmers. As there are several active ingredients in a single product, the number of required applications is reduced, saving both money and time.

The formulation of multi-active ingredient products, however, is far more complex than mixing various crop protection agents. The interactions that may occur between active ingredients are not always desired, and ll active ingredients have their own requirements for pH and moisture. 

To avoid chemical degradation in multi-active products, new techniques, such as oil dispersion (OD), encapsulation and water-disposable granules (WG) must be employed.1,2

It is rarely a straightforward process when it comes to developing stable agrochemical formulations using these techniques – but the process can be made significantly easier using Turbiscan, which provides detailed insight into parameters such as stability and dispersibility. 

Using static multiple light scattering (SMLS) technology, the Turbiscan offers accelerated development of new agrochemical products using the rapid and accurate characterization of sedimentation and mean particle size without dilution.

2. Moving to Oil Dispersions

In addition to offering increased stability of moisture-sensitive ingredients, oil dispersions (ODs) can act as adjuvants and increase the potency of other compounds. Keen to realize these benefits, agrochemical manufacturers are shifting more toward OD formulations, but this move requires development time.

Using Turbiscan technology can accelerate critical parts of the development process, such as the choice of medium and dispersant and optimization of conditions for the emulsification process.

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

3. Replacing Microplastics in Capsule Suspension (CS) & Flowable 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 using non-biodegradable synthetic polymers, which remain in the environment as microplastics. Agrochemical manufacturers are now aiming to move toward biodegradable alternatives.

Accurately comparing these new polymers with their less eco-friendly counterparts can be made simple using Turbiscan’s Turbiscan Stability Index (TSI) for stability and shelf-life prediction.

Image Credit: Formulaction

4. Improving Stability for 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 complement conventional agrochemicals.4 

One of the many challenges that is preventing the widespread commercialization of microbial formulations is the need to develop formulations that can remain stable for more than a year in various environmental conditions.

When wanting to develop successful microbial formulations, agrochemical manufacturers must constantly make changes to formulations until reaching the desired performance. The Turbiscan can reduce the time needed to see how these tweaks affect stability by a factor of 1,000.

5. Localizing Agricultural Formulations

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

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

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

6. Formulating for Drone Applications and Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture is a farming method based on measuring and responding to crop variability over small areas. 

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

To formulate agrochemical solutions for drone applications, viscous high-concentration products must be developed to minimize mass. To formulate 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 enables agrochemical researchers to assess the performance of concentrated formulations under realistic drone-spray conditions in a way that is both quick and accurate.

Image Credit: Formulaction

7. Utilizing Plant Extracts

Botanical pesticides based on plant extracts offer many advantages when compared with synthetic compounds: they are typically highly specific and non-persistent in the environment and have a lower environmental load.6

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

Finding a balance between cost-effectiveness and stability can be an arduous task when only using visual stability measurements. 

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

Formulaction develops cutting-edge solutions for material characterization, including Fluidicam optical rheology system and the Turbiscan stability analyzer. To find out more about how the systems accelerate agrochemical development, get in touch with the company today.

References and Further Reading

  1. ​Hack, B. et al. Advanced Agrochemical Formulations through Encapsulation Strategies? Chemie Ingenieur Technik 84, 223–234 (2012).
  2. ​Mulqueen, P. Recent advances in agrochemical formulation. Advances in Colloid and Interface Science 106, 83–107 (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 6, 245–252 (2003).
  5. ​Puri, V., Nayyar, A. & Raja, L. Agriculture drones: A modern breakthrough in precision agriculture. Journal of Statistics and Management Systems 20, 507–518 (2017).
  6. ​Laxmishree, C. & Singh, N. Botanical pesticides -a major alternative to chemical pesticides: A review. 722–729 (2017).

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Formulaction.

For more information on this source, please visit Formulaction.

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