For farmers trying to protect their fruit and produce, most insects are the enemy – they can ravage the crops that constitute a farmer's livelihood, requiring often harsh chemical pesticides to be steered away. But not every insect is an enemy; some, known as predatory bugs, are tasked with the crucial role of being pest-killers – serving as natural enemies to harmful insects. And for EUREKA-supported company BioBee Sde Eliyahu Ltd., the enemy of an enemy is most certainly a friend.
Instead of the chemical pesticides used to protect crops, Israeli company BioBee specializes in the development, production and implementation of biological forms of pest-control. The company has developed mass-rearing systems for beneficial insects and mites that can prevent damage to agriculture caused by unwanted pests.
Instead of harming fruits and vegetables, these beneficial bugs go after their pesky counterparts, preventing pests from feeding on plants and produce. Essentially a natural and environmentally friendly form of pest control, these predatory bugs are mass produced and released in the crops and fields of farmers.
Such mass-production, however, can have a hefty price tag. With MATIMOP serving as a platform and facilitator, a joint R&D project between BioBee and Dutch company Koppert B.V., the world's largest biological control company, is working to reduce those high costs by identifying an alternative, less expensive food source for the hungry predators.
When produced in mass-rearing facilities, these killer bugs traditionally eat a specific type of moth egg that costs an estimated 600 Euro per kilo. The bugs consume up to several dozens of kilograms per week. Instead of this costly diet, BioBee has begun to use the eggs of the Mediterranean fruit fly as a food source. Sterilized versions of the fly are another form of biological pest-control developed by the company, but their eggs previously had no outside use. Easier and less costly to produce, the alternative food source has already saved BioBee approximately 15 percent on the cost of moth eggs, with an expected further increase in savings.
Cooperation between BioBee and Koppert B.V. has helped make such savings possible. Koppert B.V.'s focus has been on developing an artificial substrate where the predatory bug can lay its eggs. Prior to the project, the bugs laid eggs in bean pods, an expensive seasonal product that has a high risk of bearing harsh chemical residues.
Approximately one million Euros has been invested in the project to date. In a market estimated to be worth 200-250 million Euros annually, the companies anticipate even further success in the future.
“We see great value in this collaboration, and based on its success we have presented proposals for an additional two projects with Koppert B.V. within the framework of EUREKA,” explained Dr. Shimon Steinberg, Head of R&D at BioBee. It is because of this collaboration, which was supported by the EUREKA program, that the two companies have signed long-term agreements for joint global marketing and are pursuing additional collaborative projects.
As Steinberg explains, “Today both our R&D teams work closely together, partly as a result of our constructive cooperation in the EUREKA program."
Project Framework: EUREKA
Field: Biological Pest Control
Project: Development of Alternative Food for Predatory Bugs