FocusMexico's Polynnova group researches plastic applications for ag

13 March 2013 22:58  [Source: ICIS news]

MexicoBy Al Greenwood

MEXICO CITY (ICIS)--A non-profit consortium in Mexico is researching ways in which plastic films can improve crop production and conserve water, an executive with one of the group's members said on Wednesday.

US-based compounder A Schulman proposed creating the Grupo Polynnova consortium with those who are now the group's members, said Francisco Castillo, A Schulman's managing director for Latin America. He made his comments on the sidelines of the Plastimagen plastics conference.

Polynnova started last August, and its seven members include A Schulman, DuPont and the Centro de Investigacion en Quimica Aplicada (Ciqa), which is part of Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (Conacyt).

The consortium's goal is to adopt open-innovation methods to provide solutions to the challenges and issues of its customers, Castillo said.

Each company contributes its strengths in solving the problems, and each would benefit from advances made by the group, Castillo said.

"We can do much better when we cooperate," Castillo said. "It's about collaboration."

A Schulman proposed Mexico for Polynnova's base because the company has been active in the country for decades, Castillo said. In 1994, it opened a plant in San Luis Potosi.

Among the topics being addressed by Polynnova is using plastic films to improve food production, Castillo said.

Certain additives used to make plastic films can block out frequencies in the light spectrum, said Miguel Angel Waldo, director of Grupo Polynnova.

By blocking out some of these frequencies, the plastic films can discourage the growth of weeds and pests, Angel Waldo said.

Likewise, other frequencies can increase crop production, he said. Light management has been found to increase tomato productivity by up to 10 times, Angel Waldo said.

"There are huge benefits for the farmer," Castillo said.

A Schulman makes the masterbatches that allow plastic films to block out certain frequencies.

About 70% of the water consumed in the world is used by agriculture, Castillo said. The consortium is exploring ways to conserve water, such as developing cisterns that capture rain water or geomembranes that do the same for irrigation systems, Angel Waldo said.

Polynnova is also exploring ways to make plastic packaging better at preserving food, Castillo said.

From the time crops are harvested to the time they arrive at processors, up to 40% is wasted, Castillo said. More is lost from the time the food is processed to when consumers buy it.

The consortium has worked with such companies as Grupo Bimbo and Herdez, which is a major food processor and distributor in Mexico, Castillo said.

Other challenges include preserving the flavour and nutritional value of food, he said.

Plastimagen lasts through Friday.

By: Al Greenwood
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