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Crop protection

Supercharging light provides plants with energy cocktail to fight pathogens and thrive

CEA facilities boast the most extreme, sophisticated systems of the agricultural industry. Whether it is a vertical farm, a single-tier cannabis indoor cultivation, or a gigantic tomato greenhouse, growers have to deal with extremely complex systems. Even though one might be taking all the precautions, there is still one insidious enemy that could find a way to sneak into the cultivation: mold. “When you grow a plant in a CEA facility, the balance between temperature and humidity is the perfect breeding ground for mold,” says James Millichap-Merrick, CEO, and co-founder of Vitabeam. “This is especially true after the summer when temperatures cool down giving cold temp at night and warm during the day: the perfect environment for molds.”

Dealing with mold
Mold issues can be potentially very dangerous for a grower’s bottom line. “Produce growers try to use the least amount of crop protection possible – the result is to look for non-invasive solutions to treat their crops. However, the problem is, is that there aren’t many of them,” says James. “But then, you get mold issues and your profits get affected. We have seen this recently with some fruit growers: when their produce is affected by mold, it gets downgraded and is sold for a lower price. On top of that, a proportion of the crop will be thrown away, so growers lose money.” And indeed, Emily Cameron with Vitabeam adds: “For many growers, roughly 5-10% of a crop is going to waste due to mold and other bacteria. Additionally, 20% of the product is downgraded to class 2.”

The importance of growing organic produce and ensuring the highest quality possible comes with the wave of increased customer awareness with regard to organic products. “You can also see this in the US where a new organic accreditation for baby leaves is being introduced,” says Katie Powell with Vitabeam.

That is exactly where Vitabeam comes into play. “Growers want to achieve the maximum income for their work,” James says. “As Emily pointed out, growers throw away a significant amount of their crop to mold and bacteria. So, we developed a lighting technology that helps them get rid of molds, bacteria, and dangerous pathogens safely with no chemicals, no UV, and no gasses.”

It’s magic but it’s actually science
What Vitabeam’s solution does is nothing short of magic. “Our supercharging light has a unique and proprietary cocktail of photons that achieves two significant things: by providing plants with around 18 hours a day with this special cocktail of photons, you can stimulate the growth of the plant, making it stronger and less susceptible to mold and bacteria; but also, the light itself kills these pathogens.”

The Vitabeam light is used in conjunction with typical horticultural lighting or natural sunlight, but as said, its function is not specifically as a light source for the plant. “What’s special about this is the proprietary technology with which we can supply the plant with this special mix of energy that stimulates the plant to grow stronger. Trials we have conducted with cannabis licensed producers in the US have shown plants grow more vibrantly, healthily, and with increased organoleptic qualities.” The Vitabeam solution achieves this by triggering very specific responses from the plant. “Growers want to have the best produce, and everything they do is to get that taste, flavor, aromatics, which you can get by having a strong and mold-free plant. Our solution can get that result by increasing the water and nutrient uptake.” Since the Vitabeam solution can be deployed in any kind of CEA facility, James and his team are constantly in the field supporting growers with their cultivar-specific challenges. “We work closely with growers and help them dial in the best recipe,” he continues. “For instance, we help figure out the perfect height for the lights, or for how long our light should be kept on. The goal is always to optimize our system with the customer’s system and get the best output.”

This is especially crucial for those growers looking to increase profit margins by letting the quality of their produce speak. “When your crop gets affected by mold and bacteria, there is also a hidden additional cost to that: it’s not just the cost of losing the harvest, but also the cost of disposing of the waste produce, plus all the labor cost that went into cultivation that now is just thrown away. So, also in respect of a global food shortage, it is very significant for us to be able to help growers reduce that waste.”

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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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