CSIRO helped Botanical Resources Australia expand into new products and markets for pyrethrum extracts, a natural insecticide.

The challenge

Supplying the world with nature’s insecticide

Botanical Resources Australia (BRA) is a growing Tasmanian company which produces more than half of the world’s pyrethrum. Pyrethrum is nature’s insecticide and the key ingredient of household products such as fly spray. The company harvests the pyrethrum crop and then extracts the ingredient via two different processes to produce an oil, which they then drum and export.

Botanical Resources Australia accelerated their business growth through a collaboration with CSIRO utilising our expertise in organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry.

BRA’s Product Development Manager, Brian Chung, said it has long been a challenge for the company to find the right people to help with their research and development and help to grow their business further. “We have a strong focus on research and development here at Botanical Resources Australia, but we don’t have the resources to undertake as much as we’d like,” said Mr Chung.

Our response

Accessing expertise in organic and medicinal chemistry

“We saw an opportunity to develop an entirely new range of products and we really felt that CSIRO was best equipped to suit our business needs and help to exploit new opportunity,” said BRA's Mr Chung.

The company engaged Dr Jack Ryan, a CSIRO chemist specialising in organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry and with expertise in the scale-up of processes to industrial production volumes.

“CSIRO chemists worked very well with ours, providing not only the expertise but the equipment that we would otherwise would have limited access to,” said Mr Chung.

The results

Creating new and improved products from pyrethrum

  • Dr Ryan worked with BRA to develop new techniques and improve the quality of the pyrethrum extract.
  • BRA has achieved their goal to produce new products and improve the quality of their current material.
  • BRA has a more sustainable business.
  • BRA can now grow their sales to customers in different markets.

This project was supported by the Enterprise Connect Researchers in Business program, which was an Australian Government initiative which provided funding to support the placement of researchers directly into businesses to help them develop and implement new commercial ideas.

[Music plays and text appears: Partnering for Growth: Business is blooming]

[Image shows outdoor views of the Botanical Resources processing site]

Matthew Greenhill: Botanical Resources is the largest supplier to the world market of natural pyrethrum.

[Image changes to Matthew Greenhill, Manager Operations - Botanical Resources Australia]

So natural pyrethrum is an insecticide.

[Image changes to show a field full of white flowers, then the inside of the processing factory]

First we have to actually harvest the pyrethrum crop and then it has to be extracted by two different processes.

[Image changes back to Matthew Greenhill]

So from that, we actually produce a light greyed oil, which we then drum and export.

[Image changes to show Matthew Greenhill talking to other colleagues and inspecting the processed pyrethrum]We know that our extract is really superior to anything else on the world market but there are some minor constituents of the extract that might cause things like valve blockage in aerosols. So that's what we're trying to do, improve the quality of the pyrethrum extract.

[Image changes to Helen Faber, Manager Manufacturing Research & Development - Botanical Resources Australia] Helen Faber: We needed somebody to put in time to develop a method for analysis and additional ways of removing it from our extract.

[Image changes back to Matthew Greenhill]

Matthew Greenhill: So we had to look for some further technical expertise. There was a government program called Enterprise Connect, which matched businesses with research staff.

[Image changes back to Helen Faber]

Helen Faber: So they suggested the researchers in business and the CSIRO.

[Image changes back to Matthew Greenhill]

Matthew Greenhill: I'd normally imagine that CSIRO was the domain of larger industry groups rather than small SME's.

[Image changes to show Helen Faber talking to a colleague and then back to Helen Faber addressing the camera]

Helen Faber: We were very happy when they agreed to take it on. CSIRO developed an analytical method for us to test for this precipitate and they've been also working recently with us on ways of removing it from our extract. CSIRO had a lot more general expertise and a lot of equipment that we didn't have, so it was really good getting that collaboration with them. They've made some very good progress to date and we're very happy.

[Image changes back to Matthew Greenhill]

Matthew Greenhill: It means that we have a more sustainable business so we can grow our sales to customers in different markets. We've basically quadrupled the size of the business in 15 years, or something like that. So it's been a good story, but a lot of it's been through innovation and research and development.

[Image changes to show flower fields and harvesting machinery]

Where we've got an opportunity is in developing markets, so places like South America; in Asia, where pyrethrum is not used in very large quantities. So there's a lot of opportunity in those newer markets.

[Image changes back to Matthew Greenhill laughing with colleagues and then back to Matthew Greenhill addressing the camera]

I would urge anyone to look into ways that they can actually collaborate with CSIRO. From my viewpoint it's been easy, you know, everyone's very approachable.

[Image changes back to Helen Faber]

Helen Faber: If you've gone as far as your own expertise can go, you need to look further afield to find somebody who can help you and the CSIRO are there and you should go out and see what they can do for you.

[Music plays CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

Partnering for Growth: Business is blooming :  Matthew Greenhill explains how Botanical Resources Australia used our technical expertise to help improve their pyrethrum extract.

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