BioAg in Developing Countries: A talk with Dr. Venkatesh, CEO AgriLife.
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
“Use or overuse of chemical fertilizer and toxic pesticides has resulted in serious depletion of beneficial bacteria in the soil. Reduced usage of organic fertilizer (Compost) has resulted in the erosion of organic matter/organic carbon. Soil health can be restored only if the beneficial microbes are allowed to re-colonize in the soil eco-system. R&D efforts and product development from AgriLife envisage betterment of Soil and Crop health.” believes Dr. Venkatesh Devanur, CEO of AgriLife. AgriLife is a research-based Agri-biotech manufacturing enterprise based in Hyderabad, India. The company is focused on bio solutions for crops and soils with a pan India presence since 1994 and a global presence since the year 2001.
Below is the crisp from our talk with Dr. Venkatesh. Enjoy reading!
Q1. AgriLife has the vision to promote organic inputs for agriculture. Though quite many areas in India are organic by default and on the contrary, there are some states which have excessive use of chemical inputs. Why is a huge gap in chemical use among different states and areas and how to minimize this gap?
India has about 145 million Ha of arable land and about 145 million farming families cultivate this land. Thus, the average farm size is just 1Ha per family. It is very difficult for a small and marginal farmer to earn a decent income from such a small farm. Therefore, there is a great emphasis on producing most from limited land. Irrigated land is more exploited for growing Rice and other Cash crops. Certain regions in India use a high volume of chemical Inputs and certain regions use very little volume. Subsidized Urea is used extensively at the cost of other nutrients making the plants week and susceptible to pest and diseases.
Export oriented crops like grapes, species, and tea are tested for about 200 chemical pesticide residues and get rejected for exports if MRL does not match. These farmers have started using Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, and Bio Stimulants. Basmati Rice farmers have also started using Bio Agri Inputs because of the compulsion of testing for export goods. AgriLife is promoting Bio Agri Inputs for Soil health and plant health.
Q2. You have a good R&D facility and have developed some very innovative and revolutionizing products. The Indian market has promising BioAg products from you and others in the Industry but still chemicals dominate. Why is the adoption of biologicals slow despite great products being available in the market?
The majority of farmers in India are small and marginal and want results very quickly. Knockdown of insects is a major criterion for buying an Insecticide. IPM approach is very difficult for a large number of small farmers. Bio Pesticides based on Neem are very popular as a Tank mix product with other conventional pesticides. Whereas microbial origin Bio Pesticides need certain specific climatic conditions of relative humidity and temperature. The performance of Bio Pesticides under such adverse climatic conditions can be erratic and therefore do not meet farmer’s expectations of quick delivery of conventional products.
Q3. There has been an element of doubt in users’ minds about the quality of agri-inputs. What measures has government and companies taken to ensure quality and generate confidence amongst users?
Govt. of India through its regulatory agencies for pesticides, fertilizers, Bio Stimulants, and seeds has developed a well-defined specification and quality standards. Most companies in the organized sector produce and market quality products. Regulatory agencies visit manufacturing facilities before issued of manufacturing license and take samples periodically from both factory and retail outlets in the market. The Agri Inputs market is highly monsoon dependent and depends heavily on unsecured credit from input suppliers. Therefore, some small parts of the input business may not conform to the expected standard and results in a gap of confidence.
Q4. AgriLife has great R&D, a strong product line, and is expanding into different geographies. What are the long term and short term plans of AgriLife for growth in the BioAg Industry?
AgriLife is focusing on Bio solutions for soils and crops. Producing products from sustainable resources that meet the expectations of farmers in terms of performance and no toxic residues has been our objective. As a long-term objective, AgriLife is focusing on dossier development for Bio Insecticides/ Bio Acaricides viz. Derisom ( Karanjin) and Anosom (Squamocin/ Annonin). These are all-weather Bio Pesticides with long Shelf life, with no adverse residue, and compatible with conventional products as a tank mix. As a short-term objective, we are focusing on soil health improvement products like Rootambio which has all Bio Fertilizer, Prebiotic, and Vitamins.
Q5. BioAg World Congress 2021 is the most sought-after event of the BioAg Industry. What advantage do you see for yourself and other Indian companies in joining BAW?
BAW is a unique platform and is an industry event in a true sense. It aims to address all the challenges and explore all possible opportunities in the BioAg Industry. It is a good opportunity for us to introduce our products at the Exhibition and network with delegates from across the world. We see this as a great marketing opportunity.
AgriLife is a BAW Congress 2021 sponsor. AgriLife is an innovation-triggered company with a robust product portfolio of target-oriented biologicals and botanicals. This is further deployed to formulate a wide range of Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, and Bio Stimulants. Its product range covers Bio Pesticides, Bio-Fertilizers, Bio Stimulants, Nano Agri Inputs, and other Agri inputs. The recently launched product, AgriLife Rootambio®, is a natural product that nourishes and imparts vigor to the crop root system.
AgriLife groups In-house laboratory is recognized by the Govt of India, Dept of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) as an R&D unit where all innovations are met with high ethical standards and safety norms.
AgriLife's 40 strains of microbes are under an International patent deposit certificate from Budapest Treaty recognized depository and accorded accession numbers. The company has signed Access Benefit Sharing (ABS) Agreement with the state biodiversity board and pays a royalty to the habitat from where the microbes were isolated. This company also has a licensing agreement with many strains of microbes with ICAR (Indian council of agricultural research) and affiliated research centers and from Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health, Govt of India. Thus, all the microbial resources are legal and under National Biodiversity Act. Most of the products produced are approved for use in Organic Agriculture under NPOP, Govt of India. AgriLife head office is situated in Hyderabad, India with a production facility, as well as overseas affiliates situated in Singapore and the USA.