Anyone who works in the agrochemical industry knows that we’re constantly striving to develop new, more effective products. This isn’t merely about making a profit. Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for agrochemicals that maximize farmers’ crop yields. In order to meet the global population’s rising food production needs, everyone within the industry must place a continued emphasis on creating strong, reliable products.
While we’ve been successful, there’s always room to improve, innovate, and explore. No field is stagnant. It’s obvious that there are still undiscovered ways to make agrochemicals even more effective than they already are. However, there’s a boundary that could prevent us from reaching those goals as rapidly as possible: inefficient R&D processes.
Research and development is at the core of the agrochemical industry. It’s the key to improving our current products and developing new ones. In all lines of work that involve substantial R&D, though, it’s important to step back from time to time and determine what could be done to boost the efficiency of these processes. When we address the factors that may be slowing us down, we can do an even better job of developing agrochemicals that protect our crops and help them thrive.
Better Data Management
First, we should explore new means of data management to confirm that we’re using the best tools and methods available. Obviously, data management is important in any field’s R&D efforts, but it’s especially significant when it comes to creating new agrochemicals. Keeping track of data in an organized manner doesn’t just make it easier to identify the chemicals that appear to be the most effective. It also ensures that companies abide by the numerous regulations that are simply an unavoidable and necessary component of the industry.
Better data management is also increasingly important because the R&D process has grown more complex, costly, and time-consuming. According to the industry group European Crop Protection, the cost of bringing an agrochemical product to market has increased by 55% since 2000. In addition, it now takes about 11 years to develop a product, up from 8 years in 1995. On average, creating a new agrochemical product requires a considerable R&D investment of $286 million.
Many R&D teams at agrochemical companies are already implementing the most efficient data management strategies. However, when it plays such an important role in the process, there’s no harm in taking stock of the current strategy and making absolutely sure that there are no ways in which it can be improved.
Along the same lines, it’s worthwhile to explore the potential for making use of new technologies that can help R&D teams automate more of their tasks. R&D work often yields the best results when scientists are able to focus on their actual research, rather than the administrative aspects of organizing and managing that research. Unfortunately, R&D is, by its nature, filled with such tasks that take time and attention away from other processes.
Again, it may be that any given R&D team has already optimized their technology usage, automating all the tasks that they can. But until they can say for certain that this is the case, it’s often smart to investigate new options. While adopting a new technology usually involves a transition stage that could slow processes down in the short run, in the long run, it can provide for a tremendous surge in productivity.
Focus on Most Promising Products
It’s also fair to keep in mind that there is an extremely practical side to the type of work that R&D specialists do. Of course they are the ones who help create new agrochemicals, but they could end up wasting much of their precious time if they focus on developing a product for which there is simply no market. That’s why they also need to be sure that they’re staying up-to-date on new advances in the field, such as precision agriculture, as well as market demands. The end goal of their work is to create a product that will provide for more robust crop yields, but if no one has any interest in using the products they develop, then they’ll never have their intended effect.
Because of this, R&D teams and the people who manage them must stay abreast of the changing landscape that is the agricultural industry. It doesn’t matter if you’ve automated every last task you can and taken every step to ensure your data management processes are efficient—you’re still going nowhere if you’re developing chemicals for which there will be no demand when they hit the market.
Obviously, improving the efficiency of R&D processes is no simple endeavor. Each team has their own set of needs to be addressed. However, no one should fall into the trap of forgetting the importance of this goal. The demand for increased food production will not go away; the global population is counting on intelligent, talented individuals and groups to work rapidly in their efforts to improve agrochemicals. Getting some perspective and considering what can be done to make research and development more productive and efficient is a win-win-win. It benefits agrochemical companies, farmers, and the public.