Like pesticide development, pesticide packaging is based on continuous innovation. Well-designed containers are easier and safer for farmers to use plus they protect the environment and product authenticity. They withstand a minimum 2-3-year shelf life as well as rough conditions during transportation. They can also include track and trace measures to guard against counterfeiting. Here are 10 ways in which the crop protection industry innovates for safety in packaging:
- Seal, logo and lock. Safety seals, a manufacturer’s logo engraved into the bottles and/or caps of products as well as spill-resistant and child-proof caps protect against leakage, counterfeiting and getting into the wrong hands. Caps are thermo-formed with a tamper evidence ring that breaks off to indicate an opened bottle.
- Measure up. Built-in measuring features minimize the risk of under- or overuse of pesticides. Like a measuring cup, there are scales on packaging so farmers don’t have to use separate equipment to mix a product with water. A translucent strip on the side shows how much product is used with upside down and bottom up scales for ease of use. Gels have measured doses within their package.
- Aerate bottle necks. Anti-splash and anti-glug bottle necks are large enough for air to enter while pouring to prevent splashing. The mouth is wide or there’s a molded in feature that allows air in.
- Get a grip and pinch. The handles of crop protection products are ergonomically designed for easy handling. In addition, pinched handles prevent product getting caught in this hard to reach area for better rinsing before disposal.
- Right-size. Easy-to-manage containers that are appropriate for farm size discourage decanting products into unlabeled, inappropriate containers. For example, in South America and the U.S., where farms are large, also containers are large. But in India and China, farms are smaller so containers match to fit.
- Smart label. By incorporating unique overt and covert features, such as a hologram with a company logo or invisible letters that can only be read by retailers with special equipment, crop protection manufacturers protect against counterfeiting.
- Raise the bar (code). QR or barcodes are another way the crop protection industry authenticates products. They are read by farmers with a smart phone app to verify product origin. If the code has already been scanned several times (empty packaging taken by a criminal and refilled), then the farmer will be warned not to use it.
- Lighten up and get stronger. Stronger, lighter plastics and clever designs (i.e., ribs in bottle walls) that enhance stability are being used in pesticide packaging to lessen waste and cost.
- Layer and bulk-up. Multiple layers (three to five depending on product properties) of different polymer resins are built into product container walls to ensure chemical compatibility or serve as migration barriers. In the U.S. and Canada, refillable, returnable bulk containers for liquid products are used to cut down on waste and cost as they last for five years.
- Close contact. Packaging used together with a Closed Transfer System (CTS) prevents farmers from getting into direct contact with liquid chemicals. Farmers simply put a sealed bottle onto a device that opens it, properly measures the pesticide and transfers it to the large sprayer tank. Only a small percentage of European and U.S. farmers are currently using CTS – which was designed by agricultural equipment makers – but its potential is huge, especially if authorities stipulate the use of crop protection products only in combination with a CTS.
Innovation in pesticide packaging keeps farmer and environmental protection top of mind. That’s why safety is always part of the package.
Dr. Georg Heitmann is head of Global Packaging Technology, Crop Science Division, at Bayer AG in Monheim, Germany.