People who grow cannabis for medicinal purposes have no choice: they always need to use biological crop protection for their crops. "This is why there is a substantial demand for the products and knowledge Koppert can provide," the team with the company explains.
"The market for legally produced cannabis is growing at a rapid pace as increasing number of governments allocate licences for the legal production of cannabis. This is due to the proven positive health effects resulting from the use of cannabis, as well as the liberalization of cannabis use. The liberalization relates to smoking cannabis, processing it into oils and lotions, and using it in food products."
At Koppert, former team leader Erik van Santen coordinates the activities related to cannabis cultivation. ‘Rapid growth is occurring in all areas. The centre of legal production is currently in Canada and the United States of America. However, the acreage used for this purpose in Europe, Africa, and Australia is rapidly increasing as well,’ he explains.
A number of markets
From planting a cutting of the parent plant to harvesting the product, the cultivation of cannabis is a process that takes roughly eleven weeks. This means that a plant can produce almost five harvests each year. The harvested product can be processed into medicinal cannabis, cannabis for recreational use, and cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Furthermore, the hemp fibres can be used in fabrics.
These plants can be cultivated in a number of different ways. Examples include indoor cultivation with the use of artificial lighting, cultivation in converted or newly built greenhouses spanning areas of over a dozen hectares, and hybrid cultivation in enclosed buildings with greenhouse roofs.
Hundred percent biological cultivation
There are a number of pests that target cannabis plants. Aphids are the main pest, but thrips, spider mites, whitefly, sciarid flies, rust mites, and leaf miners are also pests that must be controlled.
Erik van Santen explains: ‘Many large production companies contact us. If they cultivate cannabis for medicinal use to produce CBD oil (which is what almost all companies do), then the product must be cultivated using biological crop protection. As a result, not a single milligram of chemical crop protection agents can be used. It clearly explains why these companies are interested in our products and knowledge.’
Large numbers of natural enemies
In practice, cannabis cultivators use large numbers of natural enemies as a preventative measure. ‘The growers want to avoid any risk of an infestation in their plants. This is why they opt for suppression with inundation release techniques. As a result, the growers are more than prepared to invest in a good and reliable method to protect their crops,’ Erik van Santen explains.
The challenge Koppert faces
Koppert is only active in countries that have legalized the cultivation of cannabis. However, the challenge now is finding the best way to serve the growers. ‘Cultivation of this crop in this way is relatively new, which means a lot of knowledge is being exchanged between the Koppert subsidiaries in these countries. In addition to natural enemies, we are investigating the potential of Trianum and the NatuGro product range for use in the cultivation of cannabis. Furthermore, we have to do an amazing job of organizing our production and distribution, as we never want to say we can't fulfil a customer's needs. That includes customers who order huge numbers of natural enemies, as they do in cannabis cultivation,’ Erik van Santen concludes.