Interview of Laia Cortel, Managing Director Plant Health BIOIBERICA
Bioiberica pioneers in plant stress products supported with science/mode of action to help farmers understanding the benefits of biostimulant solutions and measure impact on Production/Quality in abiotic situations occurrences. We had a chance to interview Bioiberica’s Managing Director, Laia Cortel. It was an opportunity not just to better understand the BioAg industry but also to gain insight into Bioiberica’s strategy for the Industry.
Q1. BIOIBERICA has impressively grown during the past 8 years. Do you see the company continuing its sustained growth only by expanding the existing high-end biostimulants niches or do you eye other sectors such as biocontrol (or M&A, or entering new applications/markets) to become a fully functional Plant Health company?
For 30 years now, our main strategy has always been to develop the high-end biostimulant market and offer a variety of solutions adapted to each crop, country, and production system. We started the business at the national level in Spain and later, we internationalized through commercial alliances to distribute our products in different regions of the world.
Currently, we are present in more than 60 countries, and in the upcoming years, we will dedicate our commercial efforts to expanding markets such as the US, Brazil, or some key countries in the Asian continent.
Regarding other market niches, Bioiberica has been working also with the idea of expanding its portfolio with Biocontrol products contributing to more sustainable control of diseases and the reduction of conventional chemical load. For this, the company does not rule out carrying out M&A transactions in the future or strategic alliances with other biotechnology companies.
In addition to the key markets mentioned and other sectors, Bioiberica has invested in bringing our technology to extensive crops. Without a doubt, this has been part of the success that has led our growth to current levels. Increasingly, these types of crops adopt innovative technologies that were previously common only in high-value crops. Agriculture is definitely changing and it is doing so at a dizzying pace!
Q2. Helping growers understand the why and how to use biostimulants is complex. Bioiberica involves researchers through distributors and crop advisors down to farmers. How relevant are these key opinion leaders and what is your role as a reliable partner for Plant Health?
Biostimulants have been accompanied by a significant lack of regulation for years. I believe that this has produced a set of challenges for the farmers to clearly understand how to use this type of product and which benefits are expected with respect to multiple market options that they have available.
Fortunately for the EU, in the new Regulation (EU) No 2019/1009 that will apply from 16 July in 2022, the Biostimulant regulatory framework is claim-based, meaning that it is the function of the product, not its composition, that defines it as a plant biostimulant. Providing both, understanding the mode of action and proving the benefits for farmers in the use of biostimulants is equally important. So we have to work in these two areas.
Bioiberica usually works with Universities & research centers to show Biostimulant activity and how to best apply our products to get better performance. In this sense, approaching Researchers and experts on physiology and agronomy is essential to keep innovating with the last technologies and knowledge. Biostimulants’ effects should be translated into claims that have value for farmers to optimize their investments of Ag inputs to get the most of theirs crops in a sustainable way. For that reason, finding crop advisors and distributors with an experienced technical team is also very important to adapt better our products programs into crop needs in different areas and specific conditions. Today, our entire distribution network plays a key role in the correct transfer and demonstration of the benefits of our products, being them a consultative reference for the farmer himself.
Q3. At the forefront of amino acid technology, Bioiberica has developed its own technology of extraction that is known as “Enzyneer”. Can you tell us a bit more about this technology and how it can impact overall biostimulant segments?
The Enzyneer® extraction technology, based on enzymatic hydrolysis, offers a natural and unique solution for obtaining bioactive compounds. It allows to maintain the amino acids in their L, biologically active form and facilitates the obtaining of L-α-amino acids, glycerolipids, and sterols that act synergically to stimulate plants' physiological processes.
The principles extracted by Enzyneer® confer greater resistance to stress, enhance the absorption of nutrients and improve the quality of the obtained fruits. Its effectiveness has been contrasted with photosynthesis regulation studies, bioassays of hormone-like activity, and analysis of gene expression and proteomics. The Enzyneer® technology is a new development that allows the farmer to obtain greater safety and optimum performance in their crops, by protecting them from stressful situations. In return, Biostimulants obtained by enzymatic hydrolysis play an important role in the fight against climate change, since they allow more respectful crop management with the environment and compatible with organic farming.
Q4. BIOIBERICA has been pioneering the use of amino acids in crops and countries even in new areas. What go-to-market you successfully incorporate for the use of amino acid-based biostimulant in the crop programs especially fruits and vegetables?
Looking back, the use of amino acids as plant Biostimulants in Europe started more than 40 years ago. Initially, these products were regarded as foliar feeds with Organic Nitrogen but the fact that there was little research that could back their use and benefits deterred many growers from accepting their use. However, farmers growing high-value crops, such as vegetables and fruits, in the intensive agricultural regions of South Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece) soon realized that their crops had a positive response when using amino acid Biostimulants under environmentally stressful conditions.
The fact that these products are of natural origin, leaving no residues, and the development of country regulations have helped the rapid establishment of these products as part of the technology farmers use to grow their crops aiming to maximize yields and fruit quality. It is important to remark though that nowadays the use of amino acid-based Biostimulants is no longer exclusively being adopted in high-value vegetable and fruit crops but more and more in row crops such as cereals and oilseeds.
The cost/benefit of their use and the increasing demand for environmentally friendly products that help reduce other inputs such as fertilizers and plant protection products are factors worth considering to incorporate these products in today’s farmers' technologies.
Q5. How do you see BioAg World congress as a platform to gain “brand exposure”, and which would be the main impact you foresee to increase business in the US?
Certainly, we see our participation in the BioAg World congress as a great opportunity to increase our visibility worldwide. BIOIBERICA has a lot to offer to partners that can be interested in differentiated products that are strongly backed with science work with the experience of being long time established in many markets.
The US market, in particular, is a very challenging one, not only due to its big size but also to the fact that it is highly demanding and technically developed. For this reason, we believe that our participation in the BioAg World Congress, which was set to be in California, is even more compelled as the objectives of the organization and the ones of Bioiberica totally converge. We are very hopeful that this will be a successful one and that it will pave the way for future ones when all participants will be able to physically meet with each other.
Bioiberica is a sponsor and supporter of BioAgWorld Congress 2021. Laia will be participating in the Congress. Do join us for the congress to hear more from Laia and many distinguished speakers from the industry and gain insights.