Imaflex Inc. has expanded its tool kit of engineered agricultural films to include another product that aids in sustainable farming practices.
The Montreal company acquired the rights to Advaseal, agricultural mulch film coated with plant protection products. The technology was developed by Bayer Innovation GmbH, a subsidiary of German conglomerate Bayer AG. Imaflex announced the deal Dec. 1 but did not disclose terms.
The Advaseal technology complements Imaflex's existing mulch films designed to suppress pests and micro-organisms in farm fields, explained Imaflex vice president of marketing and innovation Ralf Dujardin in a phone interview. A big attraction to Advaseal is that Bayer had already registered the coated film technology with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Acquiring all assets of the Advaseal coated releasing films allows us to get a registered product into growers' hands in the 2015 spring season and to make a substantial step forward to our goal to offer a sustainable alternative to fumigants,” Dujardin stated.
“We are confident that once growers have tested our active ingredient releasing films they will be convinced by the performance, cost and environmental benefits,” he added.
Treated mulch films have potential to reduce or eliminate pesticide spraying on farm fields, often an environmental concern.
Advaseal HSM will be the first commercial product in Imalex's acquired technology. Bayer was “on the verge” of introducing the film on the market when Imaflex bought it. The HSM film is an herbicide-coated plastic barrier film that controls undesirable broadleaf and sedge weeds while reducing emission of volatile pesticides such as the fumigant methyl bromide. Suppressing such weeds is important in growing fruits and vegetables, Imaflex points out in a news release.
Bayer officials were not available to comment on why the conglomerate sold its Advaseal portfolio. Among Bayer's diverse interests is crop protection technology.
Advaseal fits well with Imaflex's own technology to compound pesticides into resin that is extruded on blown film equipment to make mulch film. Dujardin said this type of mulch film is also designed to cut down on pesticide emissions in farm fields. Imaflex will submit the film, a multilayer construction with pesticide compounded into the bottom layer, to the U.S. EPA in 2015.
Imaflex has also developed metallized mulch film suited to repelling insects that spread greening disease in citrus crops. Imaflex has received its first bulk order for the Shine N' Ripe XL film from a large Brazilian citrus grower
“It is foreseeable that Shine N' Ripe XL could become the industry standard, non-chemical approach for the management of citrus greening,” stated Imaflex CEO Joseph Abbandonato in a mid-November announcement.
Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that causes a tree to drop its fruit prematurely. In the past decade the disease has destroyed an estimated 25 percent of the world's citrus crops, according to Imaflex. Imaflex's metallized film reflects UV light to deter the insects carrying the bacteria. Imaflex claims conventional metallized films lose reflectivity after ten months but its Shine N' Ripe XL maintains reflectivity for up to five years.
Imaflex mainly extrudes multilayer polyethylene films for agricultural and industrial uses. Dujardin said the company has developed advanced processing methods to make its special ag films. The metallized film, for example, needs special techniques to deposit the metalized layer on a PE substrate, which normally melts at temperatures used for metal sputtering. Imaflex's production plants are in Montreal, Victoriaville, Quebec, and Thomasville, N.C.
Imaflex initially will rely on toll processors to make the coated Advaseal films. Eventually the company hopes to invest in required coating equipment to make the films in house. The coating process allows Imaflex to add multiple pesticides because coating is done at ambient temperatures that won't degrade the pesticides. The technology also allows coating of film with delicate biologicals, naturally occurring pesticides such as bacteria that could further bolster claims of sustainability.
“There are upwards of 3 billion pounds of plastic mulch used annually worldwide, almost all in combination with spraying herbicides and pesticides or application of fumigants,” Abbandonato noted. “Now that we have consolidated all the key assets for active ingredient-releasing films, we are poised to disrupt this enormous market with our patented products.”
Another environmental thrust at Imaflex is illustrated by the firm's patent application for recycling paint waste into blown plastic film. The U.S. patent application addresses challenges posed by varying particle sizes in waste latex paint, according to Dujardin. Latex paint contains acrylic resins and other particles that can act as modifiers in film, he said.
Imaflex recorded sales of C$29.7 million (US$26.1 million) and a net loss of C$412,000 (US$363,000) for the first six months of 2014. The company trades on the Toronto Venture Exchange.