Biopesticides Primed for Growth

Originally published at Farm Chemicals International, by Jackie Pucci

Biopesticides Primed for Growth

“Big things have small beginnings,” is the famous quote from classic flick Lawrence of Arabia. For biopesticides, the maxim holds true: They are confined to the fruit and vegetable fields no longer.

As more major multinationals have jumped into the biopesticides arena, more suppliers, and larger suppliers, mean wider distribution and deeper market penetration of naturally derived products in years to come – especially in coveted row crop areas like the U.S. Midwest and the Brazilian Cerrado.


Ziv Tirosh, CEO of Stockton Group; Photo courtesy Stockton Group

“That [fruits and vegetables] was a great starting point,” Ziv Tirosh, CEO of Israel-based Stockton Group, maker of Timorex Gold biofungicide, said in an interview with Farm Chemicals International. “But the heart and soul of our food chain is row crops, and it’s a different ball game in terms of economics and application rates. Nevertheless, Stockton and other biopesticide companies are working hard at creating biopesticides that will work economically on row crops.”

The biologicals buying spree by agchem companies large and small swept the industry almost as fast as the spread of weed resistance. From Bayer’s trendsetting purchase of AgraQuest for nearly $500 million to BASF’s $1.02 billion acquisition of Becker Underwood to Monsanto’s $300 million investment in Novozymes in their so-called BioAg Alliance (to name a few), the value and potential of these products are not only being recognized but sought after. Twenty years ago, who could have imagined the current scenario?

For biopesticide companies, multinationals’ growing appetite for their products means immediate global market access and far greater resources to support product R&D, registration, manufacturing and marketing, among other prime opportunities. Easier regulatory also makes them attractive, with the typical timeframe being three to four years versus nine to 10 years, and not even 1/10 of the $250 million cost to register a traditional crop chemical.

“The interest of global crop protection companies to invest in biologicals will certainly enhance market acceptance and market penetration, especially in fruits and vegetables, but also in row crops, for example in the U.S. and Brazil,” said Utz Klages, Bayer CropScience spokesman.

Tirosh added, “There’s no doubt that the continued adoption of biopesticides by multinationals means that penetration into mainstream spray programs will continue at a rapid pace and clearly this will add to the exploration of value into row crops.”

None of this is to say that incorporating biopesticides is an automatic easy transition for traditional crop protection companies – far from it.


Dr. Mark Trimmer; photo courtesy DunhamTrimmer

Challenges include biopesticides’ more demanding manufacturing and logistics, and the need to learn how to evaluate, develop and market the products, according to Dr. Mark Trimmer of the consultancy DunhamTrimmer. Training field staff is key. “Traditional crop protection companies will need to adjust their sales and marketing approaches to succeed with biologicals,” Trimmer said in an interview.

“Biopesticide benefits, such as residue and resistance management, are optimized when used in programs in combination with conventional chemistry,” he said. “Those companies that integrate biologicals into their thinking and train their field sales teams to promote them effectively will have an advantage.”

Big Growth and the ‘Wal-Mart Factor’

Bill Stoneman, executive director of the Biopesticides Industry Alliance, pointed out that it would seem that few biological companies would be left to acquire, but instead, he said more have sprouted up in the wake of the buying spree. Companies are also increasingly reaching out to seed treatment players to bulk up their portfolios and boost biopesticide consumption, such as Syngenta’s Clariva biological seed treatment nematicide based on technology it acquired from Pasteuria Bioscience in 2012.

Another recent example: In March, Bayer acquired Biagro Group, an Argentinian producer and distributor of biological seed treatment solutions especially in soybeans. Bayer is set to further expand its seed treatment business, known as SeedGrowth, by offering “an attractive and high-quality on-seed portfolio based on products, coatings, equipment and services,” said Matthias Haug, head of Bayer SeedGrowth.

Biopesticides still represent only about 3.5% or $1.93 billion of the $53 billion global crop protection market, according to DunhamTrimmer. That is up from $1 billion five years ago and $500 million a decade ago. The industry is highly fragmented, with more than 200 companies operating globally and the top 20 of those accounting for two-thirds of the market. Compare that with traditional crop protection market, in which the Big 6 eat up more than 72% of total sales.

The biopesticide industry rose more than 15% last year, and the trend is expected to continue. Pamela Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations, said her company outpaced that growth with more than doubling of sales. “The growth drivers of using biologicals for residue and resistance management and where chemicals are restricted or not allowed, will continue,” she said. Further, she noted that biologicals can be used right up to harvest to manage residues, are produced using agricultural raw materials and aid in reducing water use in crop production. There is also the Wal-Mart factor: They can help large food companies and retailers meet their sustainability goals, and help meet consumers’ requirements for health and wellness.

Pam Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations

Pam Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations

The launches move along at a fast clip. Marrone is rolling out one to new products per year and expanding its existing products, including Grandevo bioinsecticide and Regalia biofungicide, which snapped up five new registrations in Latin America last year and ran a successful test launch for plant health in corn and soybeans last year. “We are expanding its acreage in 2014 and moving into canola, wheat and rice. We also found that Regalia’s mode of action for resistance management and bee safety gave it a boost in California almonds,” she said.

Following this spring’s debut of Venerate bioinsecticide, Marrone is also set to launch Haven, a product that reduces transpiration, resulting in crop yield increase. In less than a year, the company built a fermentation manufacturing plant for making Grandevo, and in June, it closed on $40 million follow-on stock offering. “These new funds allow us to accelerate moving our active ingredients into seed treatments, further international expansion and to expand the pipeline,” Marrone said.

Stockton Group’s Tirosh summed up the industry’s generally optimistic outlook: “We are still in the very initial era of penetration of biopesticides and their full adoption into spray programs … We have enough value already to make this into a solid shift.”

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Combining the powers of biological agents and synthetic chemistries

As a leader in biopesticides innovation, STK Bio-ag Technologies (formerly Stockton) is pioneering a new generation of ‘hybrid pest control’ products that combine the powers of biological agents and synthetic chemistries, and which may present a new era in pest control. With recent partnership agreements with industry giants such as BASF, Syngenta and Seipasa, this seemed like a great time for Chemicals Knowledge to catch up with STK’s Chief Scientist, Professor Moshe Reuveni. STK seems to be in a great place right now! How have the values and mission of the company led you here? STK was founded and is headquartered in Israel, the ‘innovation nation’! Innovation and sustainable agriculture are in our DNA, and we are committed to the values of sustainable agriculture – from field to fork. This stems from our main mission to provide premium, highly effective products, with low chemical residues and novel and unique mechanisms of action (MOA). We also aim to provide additional yield benefits, and to ensure that our products are flexible and easy to apply, and chemically compatible with many other active ingredients. What are the main benefits of biopesticides? There are many advantages. Biopesticides come from nature – they may be plant extracts, like Timorex Gold, which effectively ruptures pathogen cells (Figure 1), or bacteriological, like Aviv, a powerful Bacillus subtilis requiring less than half the dosage of other biopesticides. In any case, biopesticides contain no synthetic chemicals. They are produced from renewable sources, and they leave minimal crop residue, making crops treated with biopesticides much more competitive in domestic and international markets. Regulators, consumers and retail supermarkets all want to reduce the chemical residue on their produce. The selectivity of biopesticides, which target only their natural enemies, also helps to maintain beneficial insect and mite populations, ensure worker safety and promote environmental safety. Today’s biopesticides are as effective – or even more effective – than synthetic chemical pesticides, in terms of crop protection and increasing yields. Furthermore, biopesticides are an important weapon in managing pesticide resistance. They can help reduce the selection pressure for the evolution of resistance to synthetic pesticides, and the risk of pests and pathogens developing resistance to biopesticides is low, especially as these agents often have multiple modes of action. Switzerland recently announced that it is considering a total ban of synthetic pesticides – do you think it is feasible to have a world free of synthetics? The world’s population is expected to grow from the current 7 billion people to 9 billion people by 2050. In order to feed all of these people and avoid mass starvation, mankind will need to double crop yields globally. This is a tall order, and to achieve this, growers will need effective tools for combating diseases – we think this will need to include biopesticides and synthetic chemical pesticides; or hybrid technologies that combine the two. The use of biopesticides is forecast to grow by 15% to 20% annually for the foreseeable future, while synthetic chemical use is predicted to grow at a slower annual rate of 3%. If those growth rates are maintained, eventually we will be in a situation where more biopesticides than synthetic pesticides are being used. We think this will be a good situation to be in, for the many reasons discussed above, but we still see a continued need for good synthetic pesticides. Can you tell us more about ‘hybrid’ technologies and how they expect to encourage uptake of biological agents? STK has introduced the world’s first ‘hybrid’ pesticide, Regev – the ‘pre-mix’ of a synthetic pesticide with a botanical-based biopesticide. Specifically, it combined a Tea Tree botanical extract and difenoconazole in an easy-to-use formulation. The combination of a natural product with broad-spectrum activity and a traditional site-specific synthetic provides growers with the different modes of action of a botanical-based active ingredient and an effective chemical pesticide. The hybrid combination results in a reduced synthetic chemical load on the environment, compared with other traditional mixtures based on two synthetic chemicals. Regev is an effective and unique tool for resistance management, and it is clearly suitable for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs. This product is also a bridge for growers who have never previously tried a biopesticide. These growers can use Regev in exactly the same way as their current chemical pesticide: no mixing, no rotating, easy-to-use… and with the benefits of lowering chemical residues, improved resistance management and yield growth. Regev will accelerate the uptake of biological products by making it easy. Historically, biopesticides have been used largely on high-value crops, such as fruits and vegetables, but hybrids like Regev are not only being used on fruits and vegetables, but have proven to be a cost-effective approach for row crops like soy beans, and field and broad acre crops like corn. Regev is already being used in 10 countries throughout Latin America, Israel, Serbia and the Philippines. Plans for 2019 call for the global rollout of REGEV. How are you working with global majors to encourage global distribution of these technologies? To accelerate the distribution of STK’s biological technologies for sustainable agriculture, we have entered into partnerships with various companies . In Brazil, Timorex Gold botanical-based biofungicide is co-distributed by both STK and BASF, which is proving to be very effective in this very large country. In the US, Aviv, our low-dose Bacillus subtilis biofungicide, is distributed by Syngenta. Not all of our distributors are the global majors, and STK is always open to partnerships with companies large, medium and small. What’s next for STK? Beyond the continuing geographic distribution of Timorex Gold, Regev and Aviv, STK has a powerful pipeline of new biological products to provide new tools to help growers reach the goal of doubling their yields by 2050. This pipeline includes new biopesticides based either on powerful natural plant molecules or plant extracts to be used as bio-fungicides or bio-insecticides. In addition, new hybrids combining natural active ingredients and reliable synthetic active chemicals, to be used on wide range of crops and pathogens, are under development. Interview with: Professor Moshe Reuveni, Chief Scientist at STK bio-ag technologies, Ha’Mefalsim St 17, POB 3517, Petach Tikva 4951447, Israel

STK Welcomes French Wine Growers to Israel | STK

December 31,  2018  (Petach Tikvah, Israel) – STK bio-ag technologies, the innovative Israel – based leader in bio-ag technology for sustainable crop protection and aquaculture, hosted a group of 13 top wine growers and crop protection experts from France who are learning about botanical-based and  hybrid technologies for sustainable grape growing for the creation of high quality French wines, champagnes and cognacs. Effective September 1, 2018 all Neonicontinoid pesticides have been banned from use in France, because they are believed to be killing the bee population. New French law also makes it illegal to use any chemical pesticide in any park or public place after 2020, punishable by a 30,000 Euro fine and 6 months in jail.  According to the Telegraph (Henry Samuel, August 31, 2018, Paris), France is the first country in Europe to ban all five pesticides researchers believe are killing off the insects. Consequently, wine growers in France are in search of new tools for sustainable crop protection. STK VP R&D and business development Shay Shanan commented, “STK is happy to have welcomed these top French wine growers and crop protection experts.  STK’s botanical-based biopesticides and hybrid solutions are currently providing sustainable solutions for growers in over 30 countries, and there is no doubt these technologies can help growers in France to comply with the new regulatory environment and continue to provide their customers with the highest quality wines,  with less  chemical residues. For new users of biological products, Timorex Gold and REGEV are highly recommended, especially for wine grapes, for the control of Botrytis and Powdery Mildew.  REGEV is  a new hybrid product with a very easy approach, applied in exactly the same way as the growers’ current chemical pesticides, with no mixing, resulting in much lower residue levels and much better resistance management.


STK & Sipcam announce an exclusive Distribution Agreement for Timorex® Gold botanical-based biofungicide in Spain January 23, 2019 (Petach Tikvah, Israel) - STK bio – ag technologies, the innovative Israel-based leader in bio-ag technologies for sustainable agriculture, and Sipcam , a global leader in crop protection products,  are announcing an exclusive agreement for the distribution and market development  of Timorex® Gold bio fungicide throughout Spain. Under this exclusive agreement, Sipcam Iberia will market and sell the product throughout Spain under STK’s trade name, Timorex® Gold. Timorex® Gold is currently approved for use in Spain on cucumber and zucchini, with label extensions applied for grapes, tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins and gherkins. Timorex® Gold is a highly- effective, eco-friendly, Maximum Residue Level exempted premium biofungicide, meeting the highest standards for sustainable agriculture. Timorex® Gold’s unique mode of action protects plants by rupturing fungus cells, increasing overall plant health and yields for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Timorex® Gold works to protect plants from Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Black Sigatoka and many other fungal and bacterial diseases. While Timorex® Gold is currently used by growers in over 30 countries in various regions, Spain is the first country is Western Europe to approve its use. The plan is for Timorex® Gold to enter the rest of the Western Europe over the next few years. According to STK CEO Arye Tenenbaum, “The collaboration between STK bio – ag technologies & Sipcam Iberia is a testament to both companies’ commitment to sustainable agriculture and our mutual goal of providing innovative, effective and environmentally friendly solutions to growers. “  Sipcam CEO Pablo Montañés declared, “Sipcam has a rigorous process for identifying the most innovative and effective biological products and companies for distribution partnership.  We look forward to our collaboration with STK and rolling out Timorex® Gold with great success bringing a highly-effective new tool to hundreds of Spanish growers, completing the already interesting Sipcam portfolio in bioprotection.”