Mumbai: In a move that could help extend its presence in the global crop protection market, Rallis India Ltd, a Tata group agrochemical company, has developed at least three new biomolecules for use in fungicides.
The firm has applied for a joint global patent with and through the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said managing director and chief executive officer V. Shankar.
Biomolecules are potential compounds or single elements derived from a living organism or natural substance. In this case, scientists discovered some potential compounds contained in neem tree that have fungicidal properties.
Crop protection technology is a critical market in terms of food security and Rallis’ patents, if granted, would give it global rights over any commercial products developed from these biomolecules. International life sciences journal The Scientist, on its website, estimates the worldwide crop protection market at about $32 billion (Rs1.5 trillion).
At least 32% of Rallis’ revenue in the fiscal ended March came from exports, up from 21.4% in the previous fiscal.
Fungicides developed using the biomolecules are undergoing field trials in various parts of the country, said another Rallis official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He declined to share details about their market potential. The fungicides have already been tested on major crop diseases.
To extend its reach and utilize its crop protection expertise, Rallis has tied up with group company Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) to provide wireless and sensor technology for “mKrishi”, a real time service in the local language over mobile phones between farmers and crop experts at Rallis.
Unlike the TCS project, though, which is with a group company, the molecule discovery is part of a public-private partnership (PPP) under CSIR’s New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative. The initiative is currently the largest PPP effort within the research and development space in the country.
Rallis, which crossed Rs100 crore of operational profit for the first time in the fiscal ended March, has been aggressively pushing new product development over the past year.
The company’s annual report for the fiscal ending March claims “...while several products are at various stages of development, improvement plans for existing products are also under way with an objective of cost reduction and being competitive in the market.”
While several new products will be developed over the next five-eight years, according to the annual report, the company’s research and development (R&D) expenditure as a percentage of revenue fell to 0.30% in fiscal 2009 from 0.80% in the previous year.
Most of Rallis India’s R&D work is now done at Advinus Therapeutics, a Tata group company, a Rallis India spokesperson said in an email. “Hence, the cost of R&D in Rallis books doesn’t show significantly,” the spokesperson added.