Dr Ehrenstorfer: a heritage in pesticides
Part three: PestiMix, innovation and future trends in pesticide analysis
Over the last five decades, Dr Ehrenstorfer has become the world’s leading provider of pesticide reference materials - leading the way in quality and innovation, and constantly improving our portfolio to match the changing needs of our customers. In this last of three articles celebrating our heritage, Dr Ehrenstorfer expert scientists Dan Biggerstaff, Kelly Cheshire, Philipp Feuerriegel and Jens Seltmann discuss the scientific process behind our groundbreaking PestiMix kits, and predict some key future trends in pesticide analysis.
What was the story behind the development of PestiMix?
Kelly Cheshire: We understood that labs were moving towards multi-residue screening, and that methods were starting to include more and more analytes – a lot of the time over 500 of them. Lots of requests for these kinds of solutions were coming into our Charleston site, which obviously needed the right QC solutions in place to be able to develop these products for our customers. They were asking us to include more and more different analytes, and it wasn’t always the exact same 500 pesticides they were asking for, so we got to over 700 analytes, which we assessed over time and split into the fewest and most stable mixtures.
What was the biggest scientific challenge in developing a breakthrough product like PestiMix?
Kelly Cheshire: Stability, for a little while.
Dan Biggerstaff: Absolutely. We would make a mix of maybe about 100 analytes, check the stability, and it would be good. But then you would add maybe 20 more analytes to it, and one of the original 100 that had been stable was now unstable. So it was a question of pulling that one out and moving it somewhere else, then adding another 20 or 50 analytes to it, and checking stability once more. But now, one of the second additions that was stable is unstable, so you pull that one out! It was about a two-year iterative process of taking the standard, and then expanding the list on each of the mixes to see what worked and what didn’t work. It was a lot of effort, but the payback is the personal satisfaction you get for doing something that other people haven’t been able to do. But most of all, from a customer satisfaction perspective, we could provide these multiple custom pesticide solutions that they were asking for very quickly, because we already had the quality control part of it figured out.
How does PestiMix benefit customers?
Kelly Cheshire: We pretty quickly realised there could be a benefit in this trend for customers: they still need to be calibrating their machines, running internal standards, and spiking samples – going through essentially the same process as Dan’s team in Charleston were already doing to create these 700-analyte mixtures. It would take customers days to do – and then, they’ve also got to maintain all the paperwork required, because they need to be bulletproof when it comes to audits.
We knew that, by bringing PestiMix to market, we could minimise this pain point for them – because all the production is taken care of by Charleston, which also means they’ve got 17034 accreditation along with it. So our customers have got that confidence about measurement uncertainty, they’ve got the certificate with all the information they are going to need for an audit, and they’ve got traceability – but without loads and loads and loads of paperwork, or having to stock over 700 individual pesticide materials. Think of the time, the energy and the storage space you’ve saved! PestiMix allows scientists in the lab to do what they really want to do, which is to analyse the samples, interpret them and – basically – just do the science.
Dan Biggerstaff: Before PestiMix, to put it into perspective, I know that some agricultural testing labs were maintaining a team of several people whose full-time job was keeping their working standards ready for the instruments. Now, it takes no more than five minutes to make a full, 740-something pesticide calibration working solution. So every day, our customers can create a new working solution in five minutes, throw it on the instrument, and they’re off and running – versus having a team that’s dedicated to just keeping a working standard available.
What future trends do you think we might see in pesticide analysis?
Jens Seltmann: From a quality point of view, as Philipp and Dan have mentioned, we are currently at the top, and there isn’t a higher accreditation than we already have. So how I think we’ll continue to help our customers is by extending our portfolio a lot - to include more compounds which we couldn’t find 10 years ago, because the analytical methods weren’t as precise as they are today. I think more and more analytes are going to be needed because - although you could say there aren’t so many pesticides, and we are learning not to put so many chemicals into the environment, more and more compounds are going to be found.
Emerging contaminants are going to be a huge topic, together with non-target-screening, which is in some parts pesticide-related but also true for pharmaceuticals and veterinary drugs. I think the majority of them will be from existing compounds, so we’ll be finding transformation products, degradation products, as well as leachables and extractables from food contact materials and packaging - things that weren’t found before, but that we can now see with new methods. People are going to be searching and finding – in very, very tiny quantities – compounds which are responsible for environmental change. And, of course, then the regulatory authorities have to react and put more and more compounds on their lists.
Philipp Feuerriegel: It’s also the precision of measurement, so if we look 10 years ahead, measurement techniques will continue to get more and more precise. Let’s say that, 10 years ago, we were measuring in the ppm area, and now it’s ppt and below. In the future, we might routinely be measuring in femtograms – that’s a lot of zeroes behind the decimal point!
For nearly half a century, Dr Ehrenstorfer has consistently led the industry in pesticide reference materials. Today and tomorrow, we are committed to continuously improving our products, and expanding our offering with hundreds of new releases every year. You can browse our full range of pesticide products here.
Our PestiMix kit, accredited to ISO 17034, meanwhile offers a quick and easy solution to enable prompt calibration and spiking of a large number of pesticide analytes. The first product in the series – PestiMix v700 – features the largest mix of pesticide analytes to be found anywhere on the market, combining more than 700 analytes for liquid chromatography in only five ampoules. These solutions can be combined in just three minutes to create a single solution of 739 analytes at 1ppm. Calibration, meanwhile, takes just 30 minutes, optimising a laboratory’s efficiency and analytical performance.