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Geapower and research platforms


In Valagro, research and development activities are translated into innovation to tackle the challenges of modern agriculture, with the aim of ensuring food security, productivity and quality of crops around the world, in light of the environmental problems directly linked to the increase of the population and the reduction of arable land.

To achieve these objectives, Valagro's response is GeaPower, the exclusive technology platform that is based on:

  1. Access to raw materials and in-depth knowledge of these in chemical and biological terms;
  2. Optimal extraction methods capable of preserving active ingredients to ensure the efficacy and quality of the products;
  3. Accurate laboratory analysis to characterise the products at the chemical and biological level, and thus in terms of composition and effectiveness;
  4. Know-how: thanks to experimental trials carried out all over the world, the best products are selected for meeting the different needs in the field.


In 2016, the approach used by Valagro's Global R&D team based on GeaPower was given an important award for its scientific significance through the publication of a scientific article on one of the high impact International/Scientific Journals in Plant Sciences, “Frontiers in Plant Science”. It describes GeaPower® from a scientific perspective: a systematic approach, starting from customized access to raw materials, through extraction methods to product development, to help efficiently turn prospective natural active ingredients into high quality biostimulant solutions.

The dynamic platform is powered by inputs from the six platforms from which the organisation of the Research and Development department is formed: the six platforms interact to combine skills and technologies to ensure the development and characterisation of new products according to the specific needs.
Organisation into "research platforms", each one dedicated to specific activities based on skills.
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The main scientific-technological innovations


Below is a table containing data on the number of prototypes issued by the Chem Lab for each year of the three-year period consider in order to carry out laboratory, greenhouse and field efficacy tests. As can be seen, there is an upward trend in the number of prototypes issued over the years, mainly due to two reasons:
  • The higher number of innovative research projects (studies of completely new solutions) and incremental projects (essentially improvements of existing products) implemented by the company.
  • An increase in primary screening capabilities and therefore the possibility of analysing more prototypes.
Year201420152016
Production increase3053110
120
90
60
30
0
2014
2015
2016
Increase in production of prototypes released over the years.

Primary screening per year


201420152016
Agronomy HQ130198200
Physiology253050
Pathology152530
Microbial102535
Total180278315
72.3%
13.9%
8.3%
5.5%
71.2%
10.8%
9%
9%
63.5%
15.9%
9.5%
11.1%
2014
2015
2016


Constant growth in the number of primary screenings performed, distributed by research platform.

Although there the differences in the distribution percentage, an increase in the number of primary screening tests from 2014 to 2016 has been observed for all research platforms. With regard to the physiology platform, this is due to technological upgrades (new machines, tools that are more efficient than the previous ones) within the company's labs, as well as an even closer relationship with partners such as Sant'Anna High School and Alsia-Agrobios.

In terms of Pathology and Microbiology, the growth in the number of primary screenings is attributable to the acquisition of the Indian company SRIBIO, which provided the theoretical bases and materials for a whole range of tests on biostimulant microorganisms and biocontrol agents (plant protection). More generally, the company focussed a greater number of projects on studying the effect of microorganisms on plants between 2014 and 2016.

The trend for the Agronomy Platform HQ has also been positive due to the expansion of the physical structures (greenhouses, tunnels, experimental fields) dedicated to primary screenings.
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Collaborations with the world of science and innovation


Valagro's innovation is also fuelled by a solid network of partnerships with public bodies and institutions involved in academia and research.

The crucial activities carried out by the Advisory Board also continued in 2016.

This scientific committee made up of international experts is able to provide strategic advice on the macro trends of the moment, with a particular focus on science and on the latest technologies in the sector in which the company operates. To date, the issues addressed by the IAB include:

  1. Plant Physiology
  2. Macro and micro algae and their use in agriculture
  3. Soil science
  4. Nutraceuticals
  5. Nanotechnologies (since 2015)

The members of the IAB "challenge" current thought and stimulate debate by providing input on specific research programmes, helping the R&D team to identify new applications for technology and providing important opportunities for networking and global collaboration.

Scientific networking evolution


year201420152016
N° of collaborations303737
40
30
20
10
0
2014
2015
2016
Of the scientific collaborations launched in 2016, it is particularly important to recall the one with ALSIA-Metapontum Agrobios Research Center. Since 2010, Valagro has collaborated with the Metapontum Agrobios research centre on the development of a "phenomics" analysis system, which allows both the physiological and crop production parameters to be measured by processing multispectral images. With this approach, it is possible to collect huge amounts of information ("big data") on plant health and their efficiency/productivity on a daily basis, especially under certain conditions, such as environmental stress or the application of one or more biostimulants.

Having considered the efficiency of the method, Valagro has decided to sign a new long-term exclusive 5-year agreement with ALSIA-Metapontum Agrobios Research Center, for the study of plant phenomics and plant nutrition/biostimulation with an estimated value of over Euro 600,000. Thanks to this new collaborative relationship, a wider working group has been created, which able to to enhance knowledge in the field of image analysis, as well as to research and develop new automated technologies for the analysis of physiological/productive parameters of plants.
The "Scanalyzer 3D-System" Phenomics Platform at the Alsia-Metapontum Agrobios Research Centre.
A. Overview of robotic system for image analysis.
B. A soybean plant at the entrance to one of the four image analysis chambers.
C. Birdseye view of a corn plant on a conveyor belt.
D. A soybean plant analysed with UV (Ultraviolet) light.