Agrochemicals widely involve fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, and plant growth regulators that enable plant and soil protection, improve the yield, maintain and improve the growth process of plants. Given the large operational area and the never-ending need for the agrochemical industry, many market players and companies have entered the industry.
Ceradis is such a company that has developed and patented (biological) formulation additives that boost the efficacy of existing chemical active ingredients, resulting in a reduced rate of chemicals use per hectare of farmland and lower residues on the crop, making them more environment-friendly. In addition, these formulation technology allow biopesticides from other sectors to crop protection.
We approached Willem-Jan MEULEMEESTERS, the prestigious CEO of the company for an exclusive “Interview with Insights Success”:
Q: Brief us about your company, its inception story, and the vision behind it.
A: Ceradis was founded in 2006 as a spin-off from Wageningen University & Research, to develop and commercialize innovative green products & formulations for crop protection. We do this through our proprietary formulation technologies. These enable a reduction of the dose rate of existing agrochemical active ingredients with 25-50% or to bring biopesticides from other sectors to crop protection. The vision of Ceradis is to create safer food and contribute to sustainable agriculture by reducing chemical pesticides.
Q: Kindly provide a brief overview of your products and services.
A: Ceradis has already successfully marketed several products in six European and three Latin American countries. We bring these products to market through (local) distributors. We aim to be a partner to the crop protection industry, bringing our technology to help them deal with the increasing demand for a lower chemical load. We bring our technology to them either as a ready product for distribution, or we enter into a partnership to develop a tailor-made product. In all cases, our products are unique and patent-protected. This business model is appreciated, and already some of the largest and best-known companies work with us and our products (e.g. Syngenta, Adama, Dole).
Q: With regards to your organization’s profound industry experience, how do you think the chemical industry and market have evolved and what can be expected in the forthcoming years?
A: Firstly, we continue to believe that pharma is ahead of us and shows where we will go in terms of industry structure: a couple of truly massive development companies who create around them an ecosystem of start-ups, through whom they source much early-stage innovation. Next to this, there is a larger group of generic players. Finally, there are the ‘super generics’, who use generic molecules but drive superior value through the delivery system for the molecule- what we’d call the formulation. In pharma, as in our industry, this is driven by the ever-increasing costs to develop and commercialize active ingredients, and the raising of regulatory, end-consumer and society’s ‘bar’. Secondly, we believe that while the long-term game is one of being able to feed the planet, short-term we still see a world with very low food commodity prices. Together, this means that crop protection faces, in our view, challenges even greater than pharma given the need to deliver solutions at a fundamentally lower price point!
Q: What are the benefits gained by your clients/users from your products/solutions/services?
A: Wageningen University saw the challenges above well in advance. So, the Ceradis technologies were developed with these in mind. Using our products, farmers can protect their crops as well as with chemicals while reducing chemical load. And not only that, our products are easy to handle, deliver excellent value for money and help manage resistance. And to our distributor partners, we offer unique products to differentiate themselves in the market, and a way to potentially enable the renewal of their actives under regulatory scrutiny.
Q: What obstacles and/or limitations does your organization face while growing, sustaining or retaining its clientele?
A: Growing from scratch is of course always challenging. Our main goal initially was showing our potential customers we were not ‘snake oil sellers’. We are very proud to work with several of the leading companies in our field, and of course, it remains a continuous challenge – and a pleasure – to help them be successful. Now, while we keep building on this momentum, we aim to move from more ‘solo solutions’ to help our customers with multiple aspects of their portfolio and become part of their strategic product initiatives. Finally, it always remains challenging to obtain and keep up to date the kind of deep expertise on crops, pests, products, regulations, farmers’ needs that are required to be successful in our industry. For this, we have a network of local experts and nothing beats going out, walking the fields and talking with people.
Q: Could you list out the most growth-deteriorating challenges for your organization to date?
A: At this point, obtaining the talent needed to help further growth is a nearly constant preoccupation. We are lucky to be based in a very dynamic and competitive country (the Netherlands is ranked #4 globally for competitiveness by the World Economic Forum) with a strong start-up culture. So, we know the ‘war on talent’! We are proud that, while still small, we are very diverse in terms of nationalities, gender, and professional background. We have succeeded in attracting talented people who are keen to help us realize our mission of fewer chemicals in agriculture, excited to work in a company that gives lots of personal responsibility and growth opportunities, in a very international setting. But as said, we are always actively looking for people who could contribute to our – and their own – growth.
Q: What does the future hold for your organization in terms of internal as well as holistic development?
A: We are less focused on the development of the company and much more on the realization of our mission. To help farmers worldwide farm sustainably, we wish to expand our offering to ever more pest/crop/application areas, as well as enter more and more countries. This requires the full usage of our existing technologies and turning promising ideas for new technologies into reality. But most of all it means we wish to scale our commercial presence and build strong alliances with our distribution partners.