Seed World

Sustainability and Biodegradability Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Chief Technology & Innovation Officer,
Activate Ag Labs

Shortly after graduating from the UEA with a degree in physics joined the R&D department at Germains Technology Group, who specialize in seed enhancement technologies. He spent two years investigating other industrial uses for seed treating equipment before moving across into seed coating polymers and application of biologicals to seed. During the nine years as a Research Scientist, he began a Master’s in Science through part-time study via the Open University, which was completed after having moved to the new position of Research Scientist at the Institute of Food Research, working on the DEFRA Link BBSRC project, Multiple Emulsions in Food. Simon has spent at least two decades formulating seed coating polymers which are effective in their attributes whilst maintaining products which have an environmental conscious content.

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Sustainability has become such a buzzword across agriculture that it risks sinking into cliché, but I believe it’s critical to define sustainability as actionable. 

At Activate Ag, we’re committed to fostering sustainability in clear and concrete ways, starting by sourcing renewable input materials. Specifically, we’re striving to build formulations that replace traditional (petro)chemistry with alternative products. Our goal is to use renewable plant-based resources (no, not ancient plants that have turned to coal or petroleum; we’re seeking plants with a recent history!). To achieve that, we’re working ever more closely with suppliers on obtaining the right stocks in the right locations. For the biological-type inputs, we are swapping out mined sources too. For example, humate from lignite sources are being displaced by humates from plant materials, or materials offering the same outcomes, but better served from responsibly sourced, farmed, seaweed type products.

Even with sustainably sourced materials there is more to consider. We believe agriculture input companies like ours need to rely on ingredients that quickly break down to their component elements in soil or, where possible, break down to soil health amendments. We know we can do better than the status quo.

We are striving to increasingly use ingredients that are as close as possible to those extracted or produced naturally. Even in cases where there are technical advantages to manipulated, improved ingredients, we measure and temper the advantages against how the ingredients will biodegrade, both in terms of timespan and chemical remains, in order to make the most responsible choices and best steps forward for agriculture.

We don’t expect to fix all issues overnight, but we do expect concerted efforts from ourselves and all the related industries will help agriculture head in a better, more sustainable direction. We will continually look to improve our formulations and we are committed to working with industry members whose goals closely align with ours in order to symbiotically advance sustainably produced products and protect the precious soils on which we all depend.