How Agricultural Retailers Can Leverage Biological Products to Build Business

By Brian Reuwee posted 8 days ago


Sponsored content provided by the Biological Products Industry Alliance

BPIA ConferenceThe world’s population is expected to reach nine billion by the year 2050.  Because of this, a primary focus of today is how to feed the growing population in a sustainable way with little or no impact on the environment.This growing need for sustainable food production is providing agricultural retailers a tremendous opportunity to be leaders and educational partners surrounding biological products.

Biological products include microbials, organic acids, plant extracts, pheromones, and minerals. They are defined as a product whose active ingredients are derived from natural or biological sources. These new technologies have dramatically improved the ability for sustainable agricultural production across many different crop categories, including commodity row crops. Biological products have also achieved increasing support through extensive university research and increased education at the grower level in how the products can be used to improve agricultural sustainability and soil health.

Even though the international market for biological products is projected to reach $4.1 billion in 2018, it would still represent less than five percent of the overall global crop protection market. While demand for biological products is currently dominated by North America constituting 40% of world-wide demand, Europe is the fastest growing market due to increased regulation and consumer demand. Even the most conservative estimates predict a compound annual growth rate for biological products in the range of 14% to 17%. This  translates into unique growth opportunities for those retailers who decide to begin educating their businesses in these new technologies and incorporating into biological products into their portfolios.

Retail customers also stand to benefit significantly from introducing biological products into production as most biological products have minimal or no impact on non-target organisms. They also generally have complex modes of action, making it difficult, if not impossible, for pests to become resistant to them. When it comes to the financial benefits, biological  products have a proven track record of enhancing crop quality and yields. These products also have reduced MRL restrictions, which improves export opportunities into markets that have traditionally been challenging based on strict residue limits of some conventional chemistries.  Biological products improve the overall safety profile by lowering reentry intervals and post-harvest intervals, promoting worker safety, and have become valuable selling tools for agricultural producers selling to retailers who are pushing for increased sustainability in the overall production process.

Biological products provide a cost-effective, value-added proposition. There a many examples. Some growers are willing to purchase a low-load copper that costs twice the price of a traditional copper fungicide to solve reentry interval and crop phytotoxicity challenges. Apple growers routinely add varying biological products such as biochemicals, benefical bacteria and yeasts to counter Fire Blight resistance while also preventing other in-season pest and pathogen challenges. Corn growers spend more for a combined conventional and biological to achieve early season disease and insect control with in-furrow applications. Custom applicators charge more to tank mix a virus with traditional organophosphate or pyrethroid to counter resistance and achieve better control and long-term residual control in sweet corn.

While some biological products have a defined shelf life, may require special storage, or prefer specific application methods, they are worth the extra care. Presuming such a product delivers value to the grower, these are all great opportunities for innovative retailers. One could see this new need and begin providing value-added services to the grower while creating new revenue streams in an increasingly competitive conventional market. For example, some retailers have added cold storage to maintain biological product quality and offer better services to their customers. By providing such additional services, a retailer can create, build, or capture business in a particular market area.

There is an increasing interest amongst growers regarding biological products, and it is retailers who become a source of knowledge about these new technologies that can strengthen their relationships with these potential customers. There are many resources available to retailers looking to learn more about these products including the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA). BPIA is a trade association dedicated to promoting the responsible development of safe and effective biological products as beneficial tools for agriculture, horticulture, public health, and consumers through education, outreach, and advocacy activities. BPIA routinely holds workshops and conferences regarding biological products. The next BPIA meeting in Orlando, Florida on October 10-13, will include a Sustainability Symposium and will be followed by a Biocontrol Conference and Trade Show targeted for growers who want to learn more about biological products. Anyone can register to attend here.

Some agricultural retailers are already ahead of the curve when it comes to biological products. They not only understand how to best use these products, but they have adapted these technologies to their specific regional locations. They have done this by meeting with manufacturers for specific product training and seminars important to their geographic regions. Some have gone on to sponsor their own biological educational seminars and product field days for their customers. There is still plenty of opportunity for retailers to become leaders and educators in helping growers to understand the full value of biological products.

The benefits that biological products present to agricultural retailers include brand development through innovation and leadership, strong revenue growth, and more attractive margins resulting in bigger profits. With the ever growing trend by consumers, food retailers, and agricultural producers searching for more sustainable crop inputs and production programs, now is the time to engage your business in learning more about these innovative and effective products. The population will only continue to grow in the coming years and it will be the agricultural retailers who provide unique and value-added services that complement new biological products that will be viewed by customers and growers as trusted solution providers.