Designed to make biological control of crop pests more efficient, effective and labour-saving, Koppert Biological Systems' newest application tool – Natutec Drive – is now being used with success by growers in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. Demo trials are currently being set up in Germany, France and the US.
Koppert Biological Systems now has three different versions of Natutec Drive that take care of distributing predatory mites and insects essential for the biological control of pests and diseases in the cultivation of fruit and vegetables in a variety of situations.
Three versions of Natutec Drive
The patented technology makes it possible to apply beneficial insects in various carrier materials from a moving vehicle via ventilated air tubes and distribute them accurately in the crop. Product Manager Natutec at Koppert, Tom Vroegop, announced that there are currently three versions of Natutec Drive to accommodate 4 to 8 row systems.
'There is the towed version of Natutec Drive that can be drawn behind a moving vehicle, a fully autonomous pipe rail, and a module that can be fixed to existing farming equipment. Even in these tough Covid times, Koppert's Technical Department has produced several numbers of these three versions together with third parties to upscale Natutec Drive technology, optimizing the success of our biocontrol products. Koppert takes great care that Natutec Drive fits most existing farm equipment, no matter what system is in place.'
Proving popular in the UK
'Currently we are preparing for the spring season with the production of 20 Natutec Drive machines for key customers in the UK - mainly for strawberry applications. And demo trials are underway in France, US, Germany and Spain' Tom Vroegop explains.
'We are continuously assessing the performance of Natutec Drive to make sure we apply predatory mite and insects as efficiently and effectively as possible to optimize the effect of our biocontrol products. As new products become available, we need to carry out trials to make sure these products work well with Natutec Drive,' says Sjors Veenman, Project Engineer at Koppert. Natutec Drive is currently used to distribute a number of Koppert's live biological products, including Spidex Vital, Swirski, Thripex, Chryposa, and Anso-Mite.
Advancing technological support for growers
With a growing number of retailers and consumer groups demanding produce that is free of chemical residues, and legislators concerned with food safety and environmental issues, the demand for biological solutions for agriculture and horticulture continues to mount. This, together with an increase in labour costs and decrease in the availability of staff, means that growers urgently need alternatives.
'I think a tool like Natutec Drive answers perfectly to these demands and current trends. Natutec Drive is essentially a tool to apply predatory mites and insects as effectively as possible, but we are also exploring the possibility of equipping this tool with sensors to detect pests and diseases in the field to enable us to apply products specifically where they are needed most. In this way we will provide full-precision biological farming solutions for our customers in the future,' Tom Vroegop concludes.
Koppert Biological Systems has received positive testimonials from growers in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands where Natutec Drive is currently being used.
'Besides the time and expense of applying biologicals by hand, the biggest advantage of using Natutec Drive is the uniformity of application which is very difficult to achieve manually, especially over longer rows,' says the owner and Managing Director of New Forest Fruit Company in the UK, Sandy Booth. 'Predatory insects are becoming an increasingly important part of our IPM strategy and commitment to reduce pesticide usage and Natutec Drive helps enormously to get the best from the biological interventions.'
Natutec Drive is also being used by soft fruit grower, Keelings, in Ireland. Their farm manager, Dennis Keny: 'Natutec Drive is working like a dream so far. I think we got our first application accuracy for Thripex up to 95%, and this can only get better.' Brian Duggen, responsible for IPM at Keeling commented: 'Great to have Natutec Drive up and running. We have achieved massive benefits with uniformity of applications and labour savings.'
In the Netherlands, consultant for leading strawberry growers, Jan Koevoets, has a customer with three Natutec Drive machines in use: 'Thanks to Natutec Drive, this farmer is now convinced that biocontrol is the way to go. It saves him a lot of time and my customer says it works fast and accurately.'