The modern crop protection market not only makes big demands of active substances and their formulation: It also presents significant challenges in items of packaging design. The materials that are used must protect the product from the effects of external factors; but at the same time, they must also protect the user, and the environment, from the product itself. Floriculture Magazine spoke to an expert.

What are the challenges that packaging for crop protection must meet?
Crop protection products are used seasonally, so they must sometimes be stored for prolonged periods, and the packaging material must not change during this time. On the one hand, it must protect the environment and the user from the crop protection product, so it is essential that there are no leaks (for example of solvents). On the other hand, the crop protection product must retain its quality over long periods of storage, in spite of the various environmental factors that could degrade it, such as light, temperature and moisture.

The stability of our packaging is proven in stringent, specially-designed tests that closely relate to practical conditions. Among these are simulation of the type of accidents that can happen during transport or storage; these are very severe tests of the packaging! We need to be able to show that our packaging can withstand severe compression or extreme environmental conditions.

Besides durability and stability, ecological and economic considerations are also particularly important. One very important consideration is that our packaging must be easy to empty and to rinse out. Here, the requirements are particular demanding: every new container that is designed must be capable of almost complete empting less than 0.01% of the original contents should remain after a standard rising action dine under practical conditions.

The user has expectations too. Containers must be as light as possible and easy to empty and rinse; easy opening and secure re-closing of the packaging are also considered to be particularly important.

Where do you get your ideas for new types of packaging?
Most of the time, we receive suggestions from our colleagues in the Marketing Departments and Field Services. They know what the trade demands and what the users prefer, and are able to provide us with suggestions as to how we should be packing our new crop protection products. But we also obtain ideas for improvements, or even entirely new concepts, from our network of partners, including containerand packaging –material suppliers, production sites, and Research and Development departments.

How do you keep track of the many types of packaging you deal with and the concepts underlying them?
In order to manage our packaging and their associated concepts; we use an SAP-application that has been speciallyadapted to meet our requirements. It offers a good platform to be able to exchange and balance the large amount of data we have to handle.

What are the steps involved in developing a new packaging?
The development of a new packaging takes roughly six to twelve months from the original order to final production. It is a process that involves many partners, from the original requester to the various expert functions. The process can be divided into five phases. First, the innovation/ creativity phase, during which our team’s preliminary ideas and solutions are collected. In the second phase, we identify the suggestions that promise rapid realization, and deter mine provisional, time-plans and costestimates for them. In phase 3, we select the best of this suggestion, after having checked that certain legal and practical requirements have been met. Phase 4 involves applying for official approval, holding negotiations with suppliers and production site, and producing test batches. If the test batches look good, we proceed with phase 5- production line manufacture of the packaging.

But before a new packaging can enter the market, it has to undergo certain tests that are stipulated by the registration process. These are run in partnership with formulation Technology. We test the performance of the packaging per se, but we also investigate its suitability in connection with a particular plant protection product. The legally-required dangerous goods validation is done by an accredited Institute.

What is the philosophy underlying our work?
Packaging means thinking the process through to its end! We understand the packaging process as a closed concept. When developing a new packaging, a balance must be made between the numerous demands made of it. We aim to achieve this balance, and at the same time to take the user’s preferences into consideration.