The launch of a new crop protection product is the climax of a long procedure that started around fifteen years before. When a company decides to identify a new active substance, it analyses thousands of molecules in order to select those that are most promising through a testing phase, which occurs first in a lab, then in the greenhouse and eventually in the field. Ultimately a dossier is compiled, in order to ask for the approval of competent authorities. Once the approval is obtained, a few year pass before actual production and sale can take place.
Artificial intelligence can speed up the process of inventing new products and technologies for farmers which are more sustainable, capable of protecting crops from diseases and parasites, and that simultaneously protect ecosystems. In this context, Syngenta Crop Protection has started a partnership with Insilico Medicine in order to use algorithms that can assist researchers in the selection of the more promising molecules for the testing phase, developing models thanks to which it is possible to hypothesize the interaction between a molecule and a pathogen so as to proceed with those that have shown a good performance on a theoretical level, which then deserve to be tested. The potential available to precision chemistry regards millions of molecules that can have a role in crop protection. Artificial intelligence is able to identify autonomously which molecules can be effective, as a consequence the initial screening process could be potentially much shorter. Insilico Medicine has already exploited artificial intelligence in order to develop new drugs thanks to methods that, when appropriately modified, could be applied to farming. It is foreseeable that in the future it will be possible to develop refined models that will be able to simulate part of the testing phase, so as to reduce the number of tests to be performed in labs, greenhouses and fields. Thanks to artificial intelligence it is also possible to take into consideration numerous parameters, such as the impact on the environment, in order to develop more sustainable technologies.