What is in this article?:
Today’s Syngenta is much more than an agricultural chemical company. Although its core business includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, the company has made huge strides in field crops, vegetables, flowers, seed care, and lawn and garden products.
One of Syngenta’s major facilities is in the town of Monthey, in the southeast corner of Switzerland.
This is where the products used on the farm are formulated and produced — from the basic active ingredients to the final formulations. It’s an exact process that is carried out in a facility with more than 850 employees. Syngenta recently spent more than $150 million Swiss francs (approximately $170 million U.S.) in expanding the facilities to meet an increasing demand.
David Abetel, production chemist for Syngenta, explains that the facility uses state-of-the-art production methods to ensure active ingredients are formulated correctly and consistently. This formulation can be as few as five or six steps or as complex as 12 to 15 steps. “Each step must be done with precision,” Abetel says. “And we are constantly monitoring the process.”
Before a new active ingredient goes into full production, the process must be developed and tested to formulate the end product on a larger scale. “We build a smaller production line to test how a product will be formulated and how we need to design the process,” Abetel says.
Active ingredients are shipped across the globe. The Monthey plant has formulation, fill and packaging facilities. It is here where you will find the packages that are most familiar: the end-use jugs or containers.
It’s not easy packaging products with differing labels for numerous countries. Syngenta has developed automated processes that help ensure the right product not only gets into the container, but gets the correct label.
A computer scanner takes a picture of every package to ensure the label is correct. “It’s a process that used to be done with several workers,” explains Antoine Mollereau, group leader. “The automation has helped us be more efficient.”
The efficiencies go beyond just packaging. The company recently introduced its S-pac in Europe, which encompasses a wide variety of modifications to its liquid packaging. The tamper-evident caps eliminate the need for foil, and every label has a translucent watermarked logo.
“This new packaging will offer more safety and convenience for our customers and ensure they are getting a Syngenta product,” Mollereau says. North American producers could see the new S-pac in the next few years.
The company is also testing a new QR-code system where producers can scan the label with a smartphone to get access to data about the product and gather credits in customer loyalty programs. Syngenta is evaluating the system, which is still in its infancy.