When developing new products for the pest management industry, BASF executives cite a broad range of R&D investments designed to drive sustainability and enhance eco-efficiency.
|(Left to right) BASF executives Harald Lauke, president, Competence Center for Biological & Effect Systems Research; Markus Heldt, president, crop protection division; and Peter Eckes, president, BASF Plant Science Co., updated the business press on BASF’s R&D activities.
At a two-day Agricultural Solutions Media Summit designed to update business press editors on BASF’s global research initiatives, company executives reinforced their commitment to sustainability and eco-efficiency through ongoing investments in research and development (R&D), while highlighting a number of new products developed specifically for the pest management industry.
Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer, a member of the company’s Board of Executive Directors, said innovation provides “the path to sustainability,” which is critical if companies like BASF are to feed an ever-expanding global population, which is expected to top 94 billion people by 2050.
Driving that innovation at the world’s largest chemical company are more than 10,000 R&D personnel spread throughout the globe, including scientists working at BASF’s North American headquarters in Florham Park, N.J.; its sprawling Agricultural Solutions campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C.; and the company’s pest control “Center of Excellence” in St. Louis, Mo.
|Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer said innovation provides “the path to sustainability,” which is critical if companies like BASF are to feed an ever-expanding global population, which is expected to top 94 billion people by 2050.
When it comes to feeding a rapidly growing population in a world with a finite amount of arable land, chemistry is often the “enabler” that transforms pure science into products designed to enhance crop yields, observed Dr. Harald Lauke, president, Competence Center for Biological & Effect Systems Research, BASF. “With continued innovation we get much more out of the land to feed the global population,” he said.
Despite these advances, however, the productivity bar keeps getting raised, requiring basic manufacturers to do more than simply discover “new molecules” to increase crop yields and control pests. More and more, manufacturers are focusing their energies on developing “functionalized materials and solutions” designed to spur advances in sustainability and eco-efficiency, according the Lauke, while meeting the product needs of customers in such diverse markets as agriculture, structural pest management and automobile manufacturing.
For example, Lauke cited a concept car jointly developed by Daimler and BASF that features a number of technologies pioneered by BASF scientists, including high-performance foams, infrared-reflective coating, all-plastic wheels, E-textiles and a solar roof with transparent organic solar panels and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) modules.
To be successful today requires a commitment to enhancing a company’s “multi-disciplinary competencies,” Lauke observed. “Research is not just about lab-based work; it also means developing cross-functional teams to work closely with customers on the ground, in the markets,” he said. “It’s more than looking for just one molecule.”
“For us, teaming up with partners is critical to market success,” added Dr. Peter Eckes, president, BASF Plant Science Company. Such a go-to-market strategy allows the 147-year-old company to pro-actively address customer needs, while at the same time meet its financial obligations.
“Innovation and new technical solutions are the backbone of our strategy to reach our financial targets and goals,” said Markus Heldt, president, Crop Protection Division, a key driver in the company’s sustainability and eco-efficiency efforts. As a result, the division – which includes the company’s Pest Control Solutions business – continues to invest aggressively in various R&D activities, spending 325 million Euros ($406 million) annually on basic research.
In addition, BASF continues to invest substantial financial resources in property, plants and equipment, according to Heldt, spending $150 million Euros ($187 million) annually between 2007-2011, with plans to increase that investment to $200 million Euros ($250 million) annually from 2012-2016.
Corporate Commitment. BASF’s commitment to sustainability and eco-efficiency doesn’t stop with its Crop Protection and Plant Biotechnology operations. It also extends to its Specialty Products Division (SPD), which includes the Pest Control Solutions business, where the company is a major player thanks to the introduction of Termidor in 2000 and the acquisition of Whitmire Micro-Gen Research Laboratories in 2008.
Whether feeding an ever-growing world population or controlling pests in the most environmentally responsible fashion possible, “innovation is the pathway to sustainability,” observed Jan Buberl, director, BASF Specialty Products. “The pest control market is a strategic focus for BASF. We will continue to support the industry and our customers by bringing innovations that deliver value including products that reduce termite labor from 30 to 80 percent and reduce (GPC) callbacks by 15 percent. You can also expect to see one to two new innovations from BASF every year for this market.”
And while the bulk of BASF’s research budget is allocated to agriculture, the Specialty Products Division receives its fair share of R&D dollars, as evidenced by the recent introduction of Termidor HE, an extension of the company’s Termidor product line featuring a new molecular technology that creates an enhanced protection zone around structures requiring less water, smaller trenches, fewer drill holes and shallower minimum treatment depths, according to the manufacturer. “We have dedicated resources that do not compete with crop,” Buberl said. “We see pest control as a strategic business for us.”
“One way in which a company measures its innovative power is by the number and quality of its patents,” added Tom Hill, communications manager, Specialty Products. “In 2011, BASF filed around 1,050 new patents worldwide. Furthermore, we ranked first in the Patent Asset Index for the third time in succession. This method, which compares patent portfolios industry-wide, found BASF to be the most innovative company in the chemical industry worldwide.”
Focus on Sustainability. Not surprisingly, the Specialty Products Division (SPD) is also a key driver in the company’s sustainability efforts. “BASF defines sustainability as balancing economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility,” Buberl said, utilizing sound scientific principles, as well as respected third-parties, to make its case.
Towards that end, SPD recently conducted an eco-efficiency analysis of Termidor SC and Termidor HE, with the results of the year-long study validated by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The study was designed to determine the “environmental footprint” of two formulations of Termidor when treating 1,000 houses over a 20-year period. The treatments included:
- A traditional termite treatment utilizing Termidor SC (rodding/trenching)
- A PerimeterPLUS treatment utilizing Termidor SC
- A traditional termite treatment utilizing Termidor High Efficiency (HE) Copack
- A Termidor HE PerimterPLUS treatment
The eco-efficiency analysis measured six key environmental impacts for each of the treatment types: energy, raw materials, land use, risk, toxicity potential and emissions. After analyzing all of the data, what BASF learned is there is a “quantifiable and significant reduction in overall environmental impacts” relative to using Termidor SC with both the PerimeterPLUS and Termidor HE treatment options versus traditional rodding and trenching with Termidor SC.
“The PerimeterPLUS has a completely different footprint than the conventional solution,” Buberl oberved, as does Termidor HE. The “key takeaway” from the study, he said, is “Termidor HE PerimeterPLUS is the most eco-efficient alternative, while a conventional treatment of Termidor SC is the least eco-efficient.”
So what are the practical implications of PMPs performing more eco-efficient termiticide applications? Buberl said it’s significant, with the eco-efficiency savings over a 20-year period for a Termidor HE PerimeterPLUS treatment equal to the “total energy consumed by 40 residential homes in the U.S. for a year.”
While the environmental benefits of such a treatment regimen are significant, Buberl said there are also a number of financial advantages, including labor savings, lower fuel costs and more efficient termiticide use. Such a treatment regimen provides a “significant reduction in costs,” he said, particularly as it relates to fuel and water consumption.
Buberl said BASF’s technical staff will be presenting the findings of the company’s eco-efficiency study to PMPs throughout the fall and winter as it continues to roll out Termidor HE, as well as the newest product in the company’s pipeline – Termidor SI, a proprietary soil injection system.
Termidor SI will be on display at NPMA PestWorld in October and available to the broader marketplace “by the end of the year,” according to Buberl. The product was developed, in part, to address a number of common customer concerns, including the time it takes to complete a traditional termite job. “The Termidor SI System treats 10 linear feet in approximately 30 seconds,” so technicians can treat a home in a fraction of the time of traditional treatments, Buberl said. “That’s a game changer.”
In addition, Termidor SI eliminates the need for trenching, thereby limiting disruption to the landscape and reducing technician fatigue. An on-board computer also provides precise dosing and tracking of the termiticide, according to the manufacturer, enhancing the PMP’s record-keeping capabilities. “The customers we have tested this concept with are completely impressed,” he said. "A machine like this creates a key differentiator in the marketplace."