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Crop protection

Stepping up the IPM game: Biobest invests 10M CAD in ecoation

Biobest and ecoation today announced stepping-up their initial commercial collaboration. Biobest invests $ Can 10 Mio in ecoation. Biobest’s CEO, Jean-Marc Vandoorne, and COO, Karel Bolckmans, join ecoation’s board of directors. Furthermore, the parties join forces to develop new IPM related technologies and go global with their commercial alliance.

Biobest is active globally in biocontrol and pollination. Ecoation is a pioneer in robotics and artificial intelligence technologies for horticulture.

The Biobest investment follows on the heels of $10M in public funding from the Canadian government and an earlier infusion of $2.5M from existing investors through a round led by Pallasite Ventures. “This infusion of 22.5M CAD will support a successful commercial roll-out of ecoation’s cutting-edge dynamic data harvesting platform based on a combination of deep biology, computer vision, sensor technology, AI, and robotics,” says ecoation CEO Saber Miresmalli.

Connecting with growers
Jean-Marc Vandoorne, Biobest CEO says, “We have been impressed not only by ecoation’s technology leadership but also by their deep connection with leading growers. Their capacity to deploy a broad array of new technologies to deliver practical and economical solutions for the world’s most ambitious greenhouse growers is truly outstanding. Saber and his team are deeply committed to make a contribution to sustainability in horticulture and realize the immense potential for further data-driven advances in biological control and integrated pest management. Together we have all it takes to be the best-in-class in IPM in the upcoming era of data-driven greenhouse crop production. Our teams are excited about these joint developments and committed to showing growers the path from Artificial Intelligence to Additional Income.”

New chapter in collaboration
“We started interacting with Biobest three years ago and today is the beginning of a substantial new chapter in our collaboration,” says Dr. Saber Miresmailli, founder and CEO of ecoation. “Besides our shared vision for the future of agriculture, we also share the same values. We are passionate about sustainability and have a relentless drive to provide world class service to our customers. We nurture our colleagues to grow and to use their talent to make the world a better place. We believe in collaboration and have the humility to constantly and continuously improve our offerings. This shared vision is a strong foundation for success and Biobest’s worldwide network will help us make a difference on a global scale.”

Stepping up the IPM game
Traditionally, a greenhouse environment is controlled by means of spot-measurements of a number of parameters. IPM related information is traditionally recorded by technical “scouting” staff walking the greenhouse and taking notes.

“The ecoation human + machine technology platform takes all this to a different level: the robots and sensors deliver an incredibly fine-mazed data-matrix with unrivalled detail in time and space,” says Saber. “Sensors allow us to pick up early signs of stress and disease in plants and interpret these signs before they are even noticed by a human scout.”

Karel Bolckmans, Biobest COO, explains how this delivers value to growers in three important ways: “Firstly, using biological control to its maximum potential requires that we get the best and earliest possible understanding of what’s going on in terms of pest and disease pressure. This is exactly what the ecoation platform will provide. Secondly, we will translate this superior knowledge into even better advice with regard to biocontrol intervention actions. That’s where our technology collaboration will leverage the knowledge of Biobest’s technical experts to make it more widely and more easily accessible, even in situations where our experts may not be able to make frequent on-site visits. Thirdly, the range of functionalities of the ecoation platform goes well beyond IPM and includes other value-added items like yield prediction, high-resolution climate optimization, quality control of produce and greenhouse labor. Our global network of technical advisors with regular grower interactions will help ecoation stand by growers to provide regular personal advice and direct support for the full range of functionalities.”

Miresmailli concludes: “At a pivotal moment for ecoation and for growers faced with labor shortages, regulatory pressures and the need to find ever-better ways to protect their crops, the partnership with Biobest now enables to scale-up a game-changing approach to how we produce and protect our food.”

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Crop protection

Greenhouse ginger has a stronger flavor than imported ginger

In Belgium, CRU is now offering prime fresh ginger on its markets. It is grown locally and sustainably. It is also cultivated pesticide-free and with a minimum of organic fertilizers. The ginger has a stronger flavor than imported ginger.

Also, its carbon footprint is kept as low as possible. This prime ginger is the result of sustainable innovation. Colruyt Group initiated that in cooperation with the REO cooperative and the Provincial Experimental Centre for Vegetable Production.


As a retailer, the Colruyt Group is becoming increasingly aware of food’s impact on people’s health and the planet. It is constantly working on making its products more sustainable. Then its customers can deliberately make sustainable choices.

In this context, Colruyt Group and its collaborators launched this pilot project to grow fresh prime ginger in Belgium. This is a project of the Colruyt Group’s food innovation team for CRU. The ginger’s environmental footprint is reduced thanks to its local, sustainable cultivation.


Local, sustainable farming
This ginger is grown in a greenhouse at the Provincial Vegetable Research Center. Two REO cooperative growers also cultivate it under a non-heated plastic tunnel and greenhouse, also non-heated. The ginger was planted in mid-May and is harvested in the fall.


The growers used a minimal amount of organic fertilizer and no pesticides during cultivation. Growing locally reduces CO2 emissions, as shorter trips are needed to get the product to end-users. This ginger goes from the field to Belgian plates. This product usually comes from Asia and South America, increasing its carbon footprint.


Fresh, top-quality ginger
The Belgian is harvested when the plant’s foliage is still green, so it has no chance to harden or form a skin. That gives the ginger a distinct aroma and flavor. It is very juicy with no fiber and is fresher than the imported versions.

These tubers are uprooted and washed and can be eaten right away. This top-quality ginger has a limited shelf life. This pilot project’s first crop has both good quality and yield – so it was a success. Scaling it up and further sustainability is, therefore, being evaluated.


Exclusive to CRU
People can now buy this high-quality Belgian ginger for a short while at CRU’s three fresh markets in the country. Then it’s back to waiting for the next harvest. So, CRU clients are the first to get the opportunity to taste this local product.


Ginger is very trendy. Because it is so healthy, more and more people are using this root. It is also ideal for flavoring dishes, in fresh but also in syrup or powder form. Taste and user tests have already confirmed that this Belgian ginger outshines the usual product from Brazil, Peru, and China. The Colruyt Group is therefore proud to market this locally-grown, tasty, ultra-fresh product.


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Crop protection

New research greenhouse for natural crop protection developer

Thorben, in the foreground, at the new facility

Valto received the keys to a greenhouse with 17 departments on the Hoefweg in De Lier, with which director Thorben Looije is taking the next step in his growth ambition.

Valto is a Dutch family business specialising in natural crop protection products. Their best-known product, V10, protects tomato plants against the highly damaging pepino mosaic virus. The research into new, natural crop protection products has so far been done at various locations.

After the imminent modifications to the new greenhouse complex, Valto’s researchers will be able to carry out larger tests on several crops and all in one place, close to the family business’s office at Leehove.

The new research facility fits in with the growth plans of the company, which develops and supplies biocontrol agents. “We believe in the power of nature,” Thorben Looije says. “We develop natural crop protection products to make crops resilient to plant diseases. This is a perfect fit within the goals of a greener Europe, but also those of growers, who also attach importance to health, sustainability and the environment.”

Natural protection
The government uses Green Deals to encourage companies to reduce their impact on the environment. For greenhouse horticulture and agriculture, this means using more natural crop protection. Valto wants to respond to this need by conducting more research and tests and developing new biocontrol agents. The new greenhouse will make this possible in the future.

Innovation in legislation
According to Thorben, a condition for innovation is that legislation innovates too: “Our customers want a healthy harvest and good returns. They ask us to help them prevent diseases in their crops. We are happy to do that with the help of nature, but then the legislation has to be adapted. The approval procedure for natural crop protection products now takes about 8 to 10 years. Fortunately, more and more people in The Hague and Brussels are realizing that legislation must grow along with us if we want to meet the European goals.”

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Crop protection

Innovative strategies for biological control

Year after year, the number of crop protection and chemical products that can be employed to counter pathogens and harmful insects in agriculture gets smaller and smaller. Within that scenario and with the aim of achieving a more sustainable management of resources in line with the objectives of Agenda 2030, biological control using useful predators is the only solution.

It is with this purpose in mind that Agri Impo Tech was established in 2019 as an offshoot of Agri Impol in Battipaglia (Salerno), which boasts thirty years of experience in the preparation of pollination programs using bees and bumblebees.

“What is new in the world of biological control is the possibility of feeding mites and useful insects right after they are introduced. This way, they can develop before the attack of harmful insects. This strategy means useful insects can be launched even if their counterparts are not present yet. Nutrimite, distributed by Agri Impol Tech, has led to excellent results,” reports Antonio Rago, owner of Agri Impol and Agri Impol Tech.

For the past 30 years, Antonio Rago and his company have worked to make agriculture as sustainable as possible developing strategies with a low environmental impact. Agri Impol and Biobest have in fact signed an agreement for the sale and distribution of hives of Flying Doctor bumblebees and of all insects useful for biological control.

“Tuta Trap is a pheromone trap that attracts Tuta absoluta adult males. It can be used to monitor and mass capture parasite lepidoptera. Capturing males, in fact, noticeably reduces infestations dropping them to an acceptable level. 15/20 traps per hectare are needed in greenhouses and 15/25 per hectare in open fields. These can also be combined with color insect traps for monitoring and mass capturing.”

Another objective for the company is making producers understand the importance of pollination, which represents a crucial phase for setting and, therefore, for production.

“Nature alone is not enough to meet pollination needs, this is why we suggest introducing bees and bumblebees during blossoming. We are basically talking about buzz-pollination (especially for tomatoes) carried out by bumblebees, who are more stationary than bees and able to work at lower temperatures and in less-ideal weather (wind and rain). Bees are more suitable for late blossoming.”

“Apipol box has become available this year, i.e a hive containing two bee colonies. It was developed to favor entomophilous pollination in open-field crops and we will showcase it during Macfrut.”

“We will welcome you at Macfrut, stand 111, hall B5 to present our new company established in 2019 – Agri Impol Tech.”

Do you wish to create a pollination program perfect for you or get to know biological control options? The company will welcome you at Macfrut on September 7-9, 2021.

For further information:
Agri Impol s.r.l.
via Milano
84090 Montecorvino Pugliano (SA) -Italy
+39 0828 53744
+39 0828 507182

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