By David Calvert, October 2020

At the start of 2020 iFormulate was delighted to be invited to speak at the Annual Eastern Europe Regulatory Conference for Plant Protection Products planned for Budapest in April. For obvious reasons this was initially postponed to September and then turned into a virtual two-day event which took place at the end of the month.

There was a good mix between conventional and bio products in the sessions I attended and it was clear that there was desire to speed up the regulatory process for both types of products and the co-formulants in these. I sensed some frustration though at the costs and obstacles to introducing new products at a time when there are more products being withdrawn and the picture in Eastern Europe reflects those in many other areas.

Initially, we were wary of speaking at a conference which had regulations at its heart but with a new strand of “Research and Innovation” I gave a twenty-minute presentation on day two on the subject of “Formulation of Biocontrol Products”. Amongst other topics covered in this strand were precision, digital and smart farming, and how these could be defined, advanced pest monitoring and the outlook for the market.

Some delegates had queried why innovation was included in the conference and why it had not maintained sole focus on regulations as in previous years. These concerns were addressed directly in the closing comments and it was pointed out that there was a need for those involved in regulating agrochemical products to know what was coming down the line and that they should be prepared for these new technologies and innovations. I tend to concur with these comments and it is this lack of foresight which is perhaps delaying the introduction of bio-based products as regulators try to impose rules for synthesised and precisely controlled products on those which are derived from nature and by this “nature” cannot be so strictly defined.

The conference was run by Legera using the Zoom platform and from a speaker’s point of view well organised with a demonstration and rehearsal being held a week before. There was an insistence on the presentations being given live and the speakers being visible from their video camera. Not only did this give the conference a feeling of being truly live, as opposed to other conferences where the presentations have been pre-recorded, but also forced me to get a haircut, have a shave and pull out one of my more formal shirts!

We are clearly not going to be able to get back in a hurry to live events but I would hope that  organisers will continue to come up with ways of making the virtual events more interactive and I do hope that I will be invited present at future events and get to see Budapest in person at some time in the future.