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Steve Hawkins ADAMA Australia CEO visit

Formulation development key to future crop protection gains

ADAMA Global CEO, Steve Hawkins, visits Australia with a clear message
Steve Hawkins ADAMA Australia CEO visit

DUE to limited discovery and development of new active ingredients, the greatest gains from the global crop protection market for growers in the future are set to come from formulation development of existing active ingredients.

That’s the message from the new CEO and President of one of the world’s leading crop protection suppliers, Steve Hawkins of ADAMA, who has visited Australia as one of his first steps in the role to meet with key customers, growers and the company’s Australian team.

Steve, who was Senior Vice President Americas from 2021 and previously held senior roles in multiple countries, said there was still a lot to learn and he wanted to start “in the market’’ in Australia, where he also spent some time as an exchange student much earlier in his career, including on farms on SA’s Eyre Peninsula.

“I wanted to start in other markets to North America and coming from a farm and having been in the industry a long time, drawing from being on the ground and adding value is great – this is where innovation happens,’’ Steve said.

He said pesticide resistance was one of the important characteristics of the Australian market. “Resistance is increasing across different segments and fewer active ingredients are arriving, so we need to look at what we can do to help farmers and it’s also not just about products – it’s an integrated approach.”

Steve said ADAMA was different to active ingredient discovery companies because its innovation focus was on formulation development of active ingredients. “We see this area as a gap for farmers and, while we are not alone, we plan on excelling in the area.”

“We are leading in this area of innovation in Australia, particularly with the local development of a higher loading product range that is also leading globally within ADAMA.

“Discovering active ingredients is difficult, becoming more costly and fewer actives are being developed. If we look at the last 10 years, we can’t assume that the next active ingredient is coming to solve a problem like resistance.”

Image: Steve Hawkins tour of ADAMA Australia Elmore, Victoria Solution Site with ADAMA staff Lance Brown (State Manager), Alistair Crawford (VIC/TAS Market Development Manager, Jeremy White (VIC Commercial Manager), David Peters SVP,APAC, Darrin Hines (Head of Commercial Unit, ANZA) and Steve Scott (General Manager ADAMA Australia)

He said the industry also still had to do a much better job of protecting existing active ingredients.  “I like what I am seeing in Australia with this. There is high awareness and more work being done on education and training of best practices.”

“Active ingredient proprietary companies understandably also focus on this, whereas we have a more open innovation model to what the market needs.” ADAMA has about 300 active ingredients in its stable globally and it follows a practical strategy focused on customers, flexibility in its product portfolios and innovation to suit future needs. 

The characteristics of the Australian market have made it a key driver of the company’s global strategy and, as a result, a huge pipeline of products is coming for Australian growers.

Steve said the dearth of new active ingredients also had resulted in the need for whole agronomic package solutions for growers and ADAMA would continue its collaborations with agtech companies to further assist applications and develop decision-support tools. 

The critical industry platforms of quality and sustainability are other key areas for ADAMA.

“We have to be uncompromising with quality in the industry. We can’t accept substandard quality and farmers deserve that commitment,’’ Steve said.

 “Challenges will still be there. Formulations are very difficult scientifically to develop, but we must maintain that approach.’’  

He said the environmental and application benefits of ADAMA’s developing high-load product portfolio were raised during sustainability discussions in Australia and it would be an increasing focus.

 Steve Hawkins Australian visit with farmers Image: Steve Hawkins and ADAMA Australia team visit mixed dairy and cropping farmer Elmore Victoria Australia


Separately, there is also opportunity to invest in solar energy to power manufacturing in Israel, which although considered a “no-brainer’’, had not yet occurred in the industry.

Steve said wider industry performance had shown a positive period for the global agriculture system in recent years, with ADAMA also enjoying 15-20 per cent growth in sales to around US$5.6 billion.  

However, he said the industry had since moved into a different cycle featuring some systemic changes.

“The macros of the conditions remain in place, but there is some uncertainty with logistics, valuations, inventory levels and supply since the covid period.’’

“We have heard how growers and resellers have had to respond to recent conditions, and how the next cycle is going to impact is now the open question.

“We will calibrate this with our strategy and investment globally and look at how best to respond for the industry, growers and future innovation.’’

Steve said key feedback received from a customer praised ADAMA for their innovative formulation development approach, which sets them apart from others who only focus on active ingredient discovery and traditional R&D methods. Their expertise and success in this field are evident.