Life sciences innovation showcase – Cardiff

Leading south Wales bio-pesticide company showcases latest in natural food crop protection

Swansea University bio-pesticide spin-out business, Bionema, is linking up with 30 other ground breaking businesses to showcase its latest work on maximising yields from food crops using natural pest protection as part of the Wales Festival of Innovation.

The Swansea based innovator is taking part in the Life Sciences Hub Wales Innovation Showcase at The Chris McGuigan Hub, Cardiff, on Thursday 23 June, organised as part of the Wales Festival of Innovation’s showcase of the latest devices, technology, R&D and data innovations in Life Sciences.

The award winning business’s latest research has found that crop growers across the UK and beyond could be failing to maximise the potential of natural crop protection – leading to potentially higher costs to the consumer.

“Farmers and growers are not maximising their productivity.Reduced effectiveness of pest control means reduced profits and we want to ensure the sector makes best use of safe, residue free biochemicals,” said Bionema founder and managing director Dr Minshad Ansari.

“The use of natural organisms to control pests on strawberries and other soft fruit crops instead of chemical pesticides, for example, reduces the risk of harmful chemical residues finding their way onto the plate or bowl,” he said.

Testing at its facility at Swansea University, the company found disturbing results following tests on commercial beneficial nematodes and insects, which attack and kill harmful pests.

“We know from more than 30 years experience that biological control can work just as effectively as potentially damaging traditional chemicals,” said Dr Ansari. ” But we wanted to know what procedures were needed to ensure high kill rates.”

Their testing of three different commercially available products showed that somewhere far more effective than others, a typical batch variation – and that in one case more than a third of the nematodes in a 50 million pack were dead.

“This can be due to a variety of factors, poor quality stock initially, poor storage and transit, and an extended time frame between manufacture and application for all kinds of reasons,” said Dr Ansari.

“Through our training programmes we have been helping growers both here in the UK and worldwide to understand better that these are natural organisms which need to be treated with care.

“And one of the first things that all growers should do is to check that they receive the number of live beneficial nematodes or insects that they have paid for, although careful management is essential right through the process,” he said.

The award-winning company, which is building a reputation for science-based natural pest control, is the first independent business to win accreditation under the Official Recognition of Efficacy Testing facilities or Organisations (ORETO) scheme for efficacy testing in Biologicals and Semiochemicals.

It is a requirement of Regulation EC No 1107/2009 that the tests and analyses required to demonstrate the efficacy of plant protection products must be conducted by ‘Official’ or ‘Officially Recognised’ testing facilities or organisation.

“We are developing an exciting range of new products which will be available to meet the expected market demand brought about by legislative changes which are coming through shortly in the horticultural sector,” he said.

“And that is why it is so important that we as an industry get this right, we need to ensure that biopesticides work effectively as the natural alternative to toxic chemical pesticides .”

“EU legislation and consumer led demand means growers have to reduce the use of chemical pesticides in crop production to grow fruits and vegetables with reduced detectable residues,” said Dr Ansari. “We must make sure that we deliver.”