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Contributing towards the Development of High-Productivity, Sustainable Agriculture through Environmentally-Friendly Biopesticides

As a result of population growth and economic development, annual global food demand is expected to rise by 70% between 2010 and 2050 to reach 5,817 million tons*.

To increase the world’s food supply to keep pace with rising demand, it will be necessary both to cultivate new land and increase yields on existing farmland. However, increasing the area of land under cultivation on a global scale will be challenging, so it is particularly important to boost yields by developing new agricultural technologies and reducing production loss.

During the Green Revolution of the 1960s, increased food production was underpinned by chemical fertilizers, pesticides and new high-yielding crop varieties. However, in today’s world, where environmental pollution and food safety have become important issues, there are concerns about the impact of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on human health and on ecosystems, and, particularly in Europe, stringent controls are being placed on agrochemicals and on recombinant DNA technology, along with demands for the adoption of safer methods.

Mitsui & Co. recognized the potential for using biopesticides to address this issue, and established Certis USA L.L.C. (Certis USA) in 2001 after acquiring the biopesticide business of a U.S. agrochemicals manufacturer. Biopesticides utilize the abilities of microorganisms, natural enemies, parasites, etc., to combat insect pests and weeds, transforming them into agents that can be applied easily and effectively. They can be used to create an environment in which it is difficult for insect pests and weeds to thrive, and restrict their growth so that they do not cause economically significant damage. By promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) that integrates the biopesticides manufactured by Certis USA with agrochemicals, we are contributing towards the building of highly-productive, sustainable agricultural systems.

* Source: Food Security Office, Policy Planning Division, Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Long-term World Food Supply and Demand Projection for 2050 (September 2019)

Using world-leading technology to help drive the transformation of agriculture

Production equipment at a Certis USA subsidiary (India) Production equipment at a Certis USA subsidiary (India)

We established Certis USA at a time when there was growing concern about the negative impact of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on human health and on the environment, and when a transition towards more environmentally-friendly agriculture was being promoted. Focusing our attention on IPM technology, which controls the growth of pests by combining different preventive techniques, we acquired Thermo Trilogy Corporation (now Certis USA), a leader in the emerging biopesticides sector, and began promoting the adoption of IPM in the agricultural sector. We were confident that, by combining biopesticides and agrochemicals appropriately in ways tailored to the environment and the incidence of agricultural pests in individual countries and regions, it would be possible to simultaneously address the seemingly contradictory goals of enhancing crop yields and reducing the burden on the environment, thereby contributing towards agriculture and food production and enhancing the lives of people throughout the world. Anticipating that calls for this type of change would increase in the future, not only from farmers but also from sales companies, consumers, etc., we made the decision to invest in this area 19 years ago. Although it took some time to bring our vision to fruition, demand for IPM has risen significantly over the past five years.

Currently, Certis USA is a leading biopesticides company with a global market share of approximately 5%. While the know-how possessed by Certis USA employees certainly constitutes one of the company’s strengths, other factors behind its superior performance include the fact that, unlike multinational corporations that have expanded into biopesticides from agrochemicals manufacturing, Certis USA’s sole focus on biopesticides has given it a strong product line-up, with first-rate technological capabilities in terms of the cultivation of the microorganisms that are used in biopesticide manufacturing, and possession of both solid fermentation and liquid fermentation technology. My role is to provide support to help grow Certis USA’s corporate value and help the company to expand its business; I am delighted to have the opportunity to support a firm that is a world leader in the rapidly-growing biopesticides sector.

Using biopesticides to enhance the productivity of the soil

Although Certis USA manufactures only biopesticides, this does not mean that we believe agrochemicals cannot be used at all. As biopesticides have little impact on organisms other than those which they are targeted to protect against, they make it possible to realize pest prevention while also reducing the harm caused to the health of humans and domestic animals and the negative impact on the environment. However, they do have disadvantages; they are relatively slow-acting, and it can be difficult to decide the best time to apply. Agrochemicals can compensate for these deficiencies because they are often quick-acting and easier to use. On the other hand, excessive use of agrochemicals can reduce the biodiversity of the microorganisms in the soil, creating an environment which is more conducive to the growth of pathogenic bacteria and insect pests. Biopesticides can play an important role in improving the soil environment, protecting plants’ roots and enhancing the productivity of the soil.

For this reason, it is important to recognize the different roles that biopesticides and agrochemicals play. Certis USA’s consultants and distributors hold presentations to explain ways of combining biopesticides and agrochemicals and how to use biopesticide products effectively, and also offer training so that farmers can learn how to adopt IPM smoothly.

Working to ensure that the right products can be used in the regions that need them

Certis USA’s current main markets include North America and Europe, but the company is also working to increase sales in South America, Asia, and the Middle East in order to help foster the spread of sustainable agriculture. However, price competition in these markets is intense, therefore the method of approach is an issue: biopesticides tend to be more expensive than agrochemicals, making them hard to win acceptance in countries and regions where the emphasis is on low-cost, fast-acting products. What Certis USA is currently considering is moving away from the existing model whereby products manufactured in the U.S. are sold throughout the world, towards a system under which platforms will be created for local manufacturing and sale, which will help to make the products more cost competitive and enable the company to respond more effectively to customers’ needs. While technical support for farmers has been carried out through distributors in the past, Certis USA is planning to provide more of such support directly in the U.S. market. By implementing similar measures in developing nations and regions in Asia and Africa, we hope to help people to understand the advantage for using biopesticides, which in turn should lead to increased sales.

We want to use biopesticides to help ensure that people all over the world have enough to eat

The number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition continues to increase, and this problem is especially pronounced in Asia and Africa. It has been reported that over two billion people lack adequate access to safe, nutritious food. There are many factors behind this situation; nevertheless, we believe that realizing sustainable agriculture can help to bring about a future in which people throughout the world have access to the food they need. By working through Certis USA, which plays a key role in our biopesticides business, we hope to continue supporting the adoption and expansion of sustainable agriculture in the future.

Posted in August 2020