The future of biocontrols for agriculture at Syngenta’s Ghent Innovation Center


Biocontrols are in the spotlight these days. While some policy makers and members of the public are becoming more wary of chemical crop protection, biological solutions seem to be the Holy Grail for many. But in a lot of crops only a limited number of biological products are currently available to farmers to fight pests and diseases. Is the crop protection industry lagging behind? Are expectations overstretched? And what is Syngenta doing in this field?

On Tuesday afternoon 29 November 2016, Syngenta presented its strategy and some of its initiatives in the area of biological crop protection in our Ghent Innovation Center in Belgium. We welcomed around 120 people from a wide range of stakeholders such as policy makers, academics, opinion makers and customers on the opportunities and challenges ahead in biocontrols. Check out our video on the event here!

We were particularly honoured to welcome the Belgian Minister of Agriculture, Mr Willy Borsus, who gave the opening speech. The Minister supported Syngenta’s work to develop new tools for farmers to protect their plants. Our scientists also gave the Minister an in-depth look into our R&D on site in Ghent, and more particularly in their work in RNA-based biocontrols.

After the Minister’s opening speech, Jean-Philippe Albert, Head of New Technology at Syngenta, provided an overview of Syngenta’s portfolio and strategy in biocontrols and the expectations the company has on the development of the market. There are various scenarios of how the market for biological crop protection will develop, and in a best case scenario, Jean-Philippe estimates that this segment will account for a value of USD 7 billion in 2030, or around 7% of the total crop protection market by then.

The next expert was Geert Plaetinck, senior scientist in Innovation Center in Ghent, who explained more about the new mode of action that RNAi offers and the development into new effective tools for the farmers. Syngenta’s research in this area is very promising but further work will have to be done on the stability, mobility and delivery of the products. A short video of our research at the site in Ghent can be found here:

Geert also showed the audience how Syngenta is applying an open source approach to its research data on its RNA-based biocontrols. Syngenta is indeed the first agrichemical company to share RNA-based biocontrols research as open data in order to engage in a new type of dialogue with scientists and researchers. The research data can be found on a publicly available webpage and Geert took the audience live to this website .

Matthias Brandl, Head Biological Products Development at Syngenta, then took the stage and elaborated on Syngenta’s partnership with the Dutch DSM that was entered into end 2015. Matthias explained this partnership is part of Syngenta’s strategy to look for a game changer in the area of biocontrols to develop products that have similar activity than chemical solutions, and are consistent and reliable under various conditions. Syngenta’s and DSM’s strengths in research, manufacturing and marketing are complementary and form the key ingredients of success of this partnership.

Finally, the director of the Dutch Crop Protection Assocation, Maritza van Assen, gave some closing remarks and gave a Dutch expression to stress that regulators and policy makers should not throw away their old pair of shoes if we don’t have a new pair yet. Whilst we are indeed investing in exciting new research and development of biocontrols, these products will form part of a much larger toolbox of chemicals and seeds that will benefit the farmer.

The event was not only well received by our guests but also boosted the spirit of many Syngenta colleagues who participated. It was exciting to engage with stakeholders in a pro-active and open way on the company’s investment in new crop protection platforms.