Agrochemicals Version 4.0: Considering Potential Upgrades and How Digital Notebooks Can Help

agrochemicals
In the past decade, agrochemicals have not changed much. Can digital notebooks jump start this stagnant industry?
Image source: Flickr user eutrophication&hypoxia

Agrochemicals describe the many chemical products that are used to maintain agriculture. These include pesticides, fertilizers and a myriad of other agents to keep our oranges sweet and apples the most brilliant of reds. However, in the past decade, the global market for pesticides has been worth $40.7 billion with very little change, while other reagents in the agrochemicals industry have seem similar price stagnation. As Clive Cookson writes, “Bringing new agrochemicals to market has become more expensive, as public distrust of the chemical industry has increased…At the same time many older products have been withdrawn because of the regulatory costs of keeping them on the market are too high.”1 Thus, between public distrust and increasingly expensive costs, the agrochemical industry has experienced tough conditions that stymy innovation.2

A Helping Hand: Digital Notebooks to Draw the Agrochemicals Industry Out of Its Slump

Innovation is a “multidimensional activity”3 and in the case of the agrochemicals industry will require outreach efforts as well as research and development in order to determine if there are alternatives to the chemicals the public has learned to fear. To coordinate these activities, industry leaders in agrochemicals should consider using digital notebooks to organize and consolidate their efforts, while making clear-minded decisions about next steps. Following are some specific examples of how digital notebooks could assist the agrochemicals industry:

Outreach and Education: Recently, companies like Chipotle have banned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products, despite outcries from scientists. Essentially, certain elements of the population latch on to concepts, which then become more widespread—to the detriment of the agrochemicals industry. To combat this spread, companies should inform the public of how agrochemicals have revolutionized our ability to make food by increasing its safety, for example. Additionally, companies that use agrochemicals should combat ignorance on these materials with information to the public. Digital notebooks would be helpful in order to monitor these efforts and their feedback to determine which techniques are working and to adjust strategies when needed.

Increase chemical safety: Digital notebooks are also essential for keeping track of experiments and results. As the public becomes increasingly distrustful of “non-natural” products, companies dealing in agrochemicals can determine if there are safer alternatives. Experiments using tools such as BIOVIA Materials Studio and the Experimental Knowledge Base can be linked to digital notebooks in order to ensure that experimental results are made and perhaps, chemicals are modified to less potent versions. If these efforts are combined with greater transparency and outreach/education efforts, the agrochemicals industry might then be able to focus more on innovation and less on defending themselves from public scorn.

Accountability: Within a company, researchers and managers should be held accountable for their work. Using a digital notebook, all data can be saved immediately and available for all those with access to the database. In cases where chemicals are unnecessarily toxic, the results of experiments demonstrating this point should be widely available to all those within the company. Subsequently, executives and others can determine how best to either phase out the product or alert others of their toxicity. Thus, rather than being exposed by activities, the agrochemicals industry can use digital notebooks to hold themselves accountable for their products, decreasing the likelihood that are accused of non-compliance or transparency.

Digital notebooks have revolutionized the work of many industries and their use in the agrochemicals industry should similarly improve how workers within the industry interact and subsequently, the number of innovative projects emerging. To determine how the BIOVIA Notebook can serve your research and organizational needs, please contact us today.

  1. “Agrochemicals: Innovation has slowed since golden age of the 1990s,” October 13, 2011, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/257a8ae0-e9d3-11e0-bb3e-00144feab49a.html#axzz3jMURWX7r
  2. “Plant protection R&D costs rise 68.4% in a decade,” February 25, 2010, http://www.ecpa.eu/news-item/regulatory-affairs/study-finds-conditions-tough-agrochemical-innovation
  3. “Innovation Challenges for the European AgbioTech Industry,” 2001, http://www.agbioforum.org/v4n1/v4n1a02-bijman.htm

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