With medical cannabis cultivation having started in Portugal in 2018, Koppert sees a big demand from growers in the new market and has been setting up their business all over the country. Currently, Koppert supports around 20 medical cannabis companies in Portugal. "We started in The Netherlands in 1967 when a natural enemy Phytoseiulus persimilis was used to combat spider mites in cucumbers. The success of this application gave our Founder the idea to make these products more available for growers," says Tiago Matos, Manager Portugal at Koppert. "The inefficacy of active ingredients for pest and disease control, and also the inexistence of active ingredients in some crops, contributed to the biocontrol market growing rapidly."
Today, the company has subsidiaries all over the world, but the production heart remains in The Netherlands. While different products have been developed over the years, natural enemies are still the most in-demand products for a lot of crops. "The first growers to use these products were vegetable producers. But in the last 7-8 years, cannabis became the area that had the biggest growth," Tiago explains. "The level of demand regarding safety, the need for less residue, and with active ingredients rapidly being taken out of the market, created a huge opportunity in the market." According to Tiago, Koppert pioneered in biological control of pests and diseases in medical cannabis in countries like Canada, the United States, and The Netherlands. "Building up such vast experience allowed us to achieve the broad knowledge we have today in such a demanding crop."
Supporting cannabis growers
"Medical cannabis requires a high level of compliance from the regulator. While this gives credibility to the market, it also puts a lot of pressure on growers and cannabis companies," Tiago says. He explains that the use of natural enemies enables the control of pest populations in cannabis, which could otherwise only be controlled with chemical products that could negatively impact the quality of the final product. "By replicating what happens in nature, you don't need to apply other substances that, even if allowed, can generate residue and affect the quality." Regarding any concerns of flower contamination by putting insects in the plants, Tiago explains that this is not a problem. "We have defined protocols to have the beneficials introduced at the right moments. The potential risk of flower contamination is reduced significantly if these protocols are followed. Moreover, cannabis flower is not attractive for the majority of natural enemies used in the crop."
When it comes to the future, Koppert is committed to finding solutions for new pests, Tiago says. "For a lot of reasons, new pests continue to appear on many outdoor and protected crops. The withdrawal of active ingredients from the market has increased the problem. In addition to researching new solutions through our R&D programs, helping cannabis growers continues to be a priority for us. We want to support them from their early stages of production, train them in IPM and support them throughout the process." With more and more adult-use markets coming online, that is also a focus for the company. "Taking into account the existing know-how in the medical market, we have all the knowledge to accommodate adult-use companies as well, as the pest control is the same." To further help growers, Koppert regularly organizes training sessions, including a valuable course on entomology, where growers learn the best practices for a successful crop while keeping pest populations under control.
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Koppert Biological Systems