Agricultural film additive breakthrough will substantially increase global crop yield

New POLARFIN® anti-drip additives set to transform performance of agricultural films.

A new anti-drip additive created by University of Warwick spin-out company, Interface Polymers, is set to improve the performance and longevity of agricultural films, transforming their cost-effectiveness in a wide range of applications.  The breakthrough solution uses the company’s unique POLARFIN® block copolymer additive technology to modify the surface chemistry of the film and thereby improve and prolong its anti-fog and anti-drip properties.

Says Interface Polymers’ Chief Executive, Phil Smith:  “The market for agricultural film is huge.  With the world’s population set to exceed nine billion by 2050, the challenge is to produce more food with fewer resources.  Less arable land, a declining agricultural workforce and the need to cut production costs has led governments to encourage farmers to use agricultural films.  These can increase yield by up to 60%, but there are problems.

“Condensation can form on the underside of the film and drop onto the plants, causing both damage and slower growth rates due to interference with the transmission of light.  Additives are already used to address the problem but they have limitations.  Although effective in the short term, they are washed off over time, which means the film has to be replaced regularly.  This is neither economic nor green.  Our Polarfin® anti-drip additive will make these products perform better and last much longer, saving money, maximising crop health and improving yield.”

Christopher Kay, the company’s Chief Scientific Officer, simplifies the concept to explain how it works:  “On a molecular level, polymers are a bit like spaghetti that becomes entangled with itself.  Instead of being washed off, our additive becomes entangled with the film material because it is very similar in nature.  This means that rather than migrating, our molecules are retained over time.”

Business Development Director Simon Waddington recently attended the Agricultural Film Conference in Barcelona where he met a number of end-users who were urgently looking for a new solution to the problem.  “As well as benefitting farmers by preventing damage and disease, reducing the need for pesticides and reducing costs, our Polarfin® anti-drip additives could help ensure an earlier harvest and a substantially higher yield,” he explains. “This would increase the sustainability of smart farming, reduce agricultural plastics waste and make recycling of the film easier.  The development of the technology will also benefit the UK economy by creating high value technical jobs in Loughborough and Coventry and helping to increase exports of film manufactured in the UK.”

Interface Polymers began introducing its game-changing Polarfin® additive technology to potential customers earlier this year, following a period of intensive research and development work funded largely by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. Since then, the company has raised £3m of private investment from angel investors and won two further grants from Innovate UK.  “Thanks to this mix of funding, we will be able to scale up production of Polarfin® anti-drip additives and accelerate development of other new products targeting the construction, automotive and recycling sectors,” says Phil Smith.