Koppert’s R&D is confronting the main agricultural challenges by seeking out tools from Nature itself such as microbiology and secondary fauna.
Fruit Today euromagazine interviewed Henri Oosthoek, CEO of Koppert. (Click the photo to see the video)
Koppert has played an essential role in the ‘green’ revolution of the agricultural sector. What will the next milestones be in the future?
This revolution has only just started. Although we have carried out a great deal of research, there is still a lot to learn. In the world there are around 200,000 hectares of protected crops, under plastic or glass. And if we refer to all the crops in the world, we are talking about 1 billion, that is to say, 1,000 million hectares or more. A large part of them need new solutions and what Koppert is doing is helping them to find them, not only for pests and diseases, but also regarding the needs of the soil. With our work we intend to return to primitive ecosystems and ensure that these are once again populated with the beneficial micro-organisms that have disappeared.
In recent years ecological and zero waste crops have increased, systems where you are contributing to the improvement with solutions such as NatuGro. What other new developments are being prepared?
The essential basis of NatuGro is using the most natural growing methods possible because better quality and greater yield are thus obtained. Although we are aware that plant protection products continue to be necessary, we back the producers with the search for more natural alternatives. In short, the chemical companies themselves know that their products end up generating resistances and on the other hand, the natural solutions never give this type of problem.
What do you think the sector will be like in 20 years time?
There are many challenges that must be faced. Climate change will be a determining factor for our future. On this point, farming under plastic has greater protection (against strong rainfall, sun…), but the open air crops have greater challenges. We must contribute to easing these effects with products to strengthen the plants and that make them grow healthily, with greater resistance to high temperatures and with deeper roots to find water. Between us all we can find tools to be less dependent on this change.
How do you think the change in the USA Government will affect the development of the policies against climate change?
Statements have been made in different directions and really I am quite curious to know what is going to happen. To begin with, Trump was very explicit regarding climate change and alleged that it was a joke or even a conspiracy set up by some groups. But later on he has chosen people for his cabinet with different opinions, such as the CEO of ExxonMobil who acknowledges that climate change exists, so I am sure that there will be many debates. It is impossible for Trump to deny what is happening. A few months ago, I saw something I liked a great deal: Al Gore going into the Trump Building. I think he is changing his position, so I am not as bothered about it.
New R&D installations for the Mediterranean Arch
Last December, Koppert, the leading company in biological control of pests and natural pollination using bumblebees, opened its new research centre in Vícar, with an investment valued at € 500,000. This centre will become a reference for all the Mediterranean region and it will allow specific pests and diseases to be studied, with on site monitoring.
The complex has two laboratories fitted out with the latest technology for research into macro-organisms (insects) and micro-organisms (basically fungal and bacterial growth). When designing the installations, the same sustainability line has been followed as the one used in Koppert’s daily work. Therefore, the building has been constructed using bioclimatic criteria to optimise the reaction of the materials in each season of the year and to decrease the energy consumption. Amongst others, it has a photovoltaic solar energy installation, earth warming tubes to regulate the air temperature inside and different vegetable roofing materials on the building itself and on its perimeter. The centre is oriented to optimise the air currents and sunlight.