CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY-backed Xampla has launched a partnership with Croda International Plc, the multinational company which uses smart science to create high performance ingredients and technologies that improve livesTM.
The alliance will bring natural replacements for microplastics to the seed coating industry through a £640,000 project trial of Xampla’s plastic-free seed coatings, backed by the UK government and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB).
Seed coatings are used in agriculture to protect seeds from pests and diseases and increase germination, helping increase crop yield with minimal use of additional plant protection products. However, some seed coatings rely on petroleum-derived polymers, which are not fully degradable in agricultural soils. This innovative trial will see the development of next generation microplastic-free seed coatings that are fully biodegradable.
Through its Seed Enhancement specialists Incotec, Croda has already established itself as an industry leader in rolling out microplastic-free replacements for traditional seed coatings, including sunflower, corn, and vegetable seeds. Their partnership with Xampla now paves the way for completely natural, coatings that leave no residue and disappear without trace as seeds grow.
This collaboration also takes Croda one step closer to achieving its ambition to be Land Positive, specifically enhancing the company’s focus on using crop science innovation to support crop and seed enhancement to mitigate the impact of a changing climate and land degradation.
Expected to take a year to complete, the trial will see Xampla’s technology protect and enhance soil health. Xampla-coated seeds will give farmers all the productivity benefits associated with seed coatings without the risks of microplastic pollution.
The partnership will also help future-proof the seed coating industry, by offering a solution which is compliant with a microplastic ban across Europe, proposed by the European Chemicals Agency, which – if adopted – will be introduced by 2027.
Chaired by Bill Clinton’s White House Climate Change Adviser, Jeff Seabright, and run by leading tech entrepreneur Simon Hombersley, Xampla is producing a wide-range of plant protein-based products to replace conventional plastics.
Beyond the seed coating industry, their natural polymer technology can be used to replace non-recyclable thin plastic films, as a substitute for microcapsules containing scent in fabric softeners, shower gels and soaps, to encapsulate nutrients such as Vitamin D in beverages, and to replace the polluting ‘soluble’ wrappings used on dishwasher tablets.
Xampla Chief Executive Simon Hombersley said:
“Working with Croda International is an enormous opportunity to show how we can deploy our entirely natural replacement for traditional seed coatings that often contain microplastics.
“Croda has been working on this problem for some years, seeking to reduce the impact of microplastic on agricultural soils, and not without success. It is by working with big hitters of this kind that we can really move the market and bring about change quickly.”
Erik-Jan Bartels, Managing Director of the Incotec Seed Enhancement business at Croda International plc added,
“We are excited to be working with Xampla on this development. Our Purpose is to use Smart science to improve livesTM, and this project does exactly that.
“Microplastics in agriculture in total account for 10% of the world’s microplastics problem, and within that seed coatings account for 1% but that makes it no less important to change the industry, as we have been doing now for some time.
“Seed coatings are a high-growth part of our business and we are determined that growth should come from sustainable, plant-based alternatives.”