ALMERIA, Spain: It’s 20 years since Dutch biocontrol specialist Koppert Biological Systems opened Koppert Spain in La Mojonera, Almería. To celebrate the milestone, the company hosted a ‘20th anniversary’ seminar in Almería on July 8th, to which members of the business community, trade organisations and local authority focus groups were invited.
There were introductory and closing presentations by Henri Oosthoek, the managing director of Koppert Biological Systems, and Koppert Spain’s commercial director Kris de Smet. There were talks by representatives of the European fresh produce association, Freshfel, the Dutch Agriculture Council and the certification body Agrocolor.
The opening of Koppert Spain in 1994 had a huge impact in the country. Sales of bumblebees for the pollination of tomatoes exploded in the first few years. The huge improvements in quality and production brought about by this natural form of pollination resulted in a great increase in demand. “Bumblebees were the first major trigger of change among growers. The use of bumblebees meant they had to alter the way they used chemicals,” recalled Kris de Smet.
A wide range of biological solutions put the Spanish growers on the path to sustainability, making them more eco-friendly. Soon, a second green revolution was announced when sweet pepper buyers started to refuse Almería-grown peppers because of chemical residues, some of which were actually illegal. “Biological pest control saved Almería’s sweet pepper industry,” stated De Smet who went on to say that it wasn’t long before tomato growers also switched en masse to using natural enemies, swiftly followed by growers of other crops. “The switch to biological control has gone down in history as one of the changes in horticulture with the biggest impact over the last few decades.”
De Smet said that a special thanks must go to people behind Koppert and Koppert Spain, “We are very grateful to have such motivated, professional and dedicated people on our team. The company’s drive for innovation has also been a powerful factor, and is the reason why Koppert Spain has always invested heavily in R&D. I have a great sense of pride when I look back at what we have achieved, and I am particularly proud of the wonderful team we have here.”
Koppert took the occasion to announce new revolutionary biological solutions . “A new revolution is just around the corner and will address plant health as a whole: NatuGro. I expect NatuGro and microbiological agents to take an increasingly important role and to form the basis for zero residue cultivation,” said De Smet. He added, “The biological balance is not just about the insects; we have to achieve that balance in the soil and in the plant itself, too.”
Pictured are managing director Henri Oosthoek of Koppert Biological Systems addressing the audience at the seminar on Tuesday, July 8. In the background a picture of Jan Koppert, founder of the company.