‘Biologicals clearly are the future tools for pest and disease control in agriculture’

The history of Andermatt Biocontrol goes back more than 25 years, when dr. Martin Andermatt and his wife dr. Isabelle Andermatt started producing baculoviruses in 1988, to control various moths in apples and pears.

Today, these viruses are still the core business of the company, CEO Daniel Zingg says. ‘But our range of sustainable and environmentally friendly products has extended considerably, from lady bugs to rodent traps. The latter is a nice and rather easy addition to our portfolio’, Zingg adds. ‘It is always good to have products that replace harmful chemicals, but that do not need the extensive registration procedures that are needed for our viruses, for example.’

In vitro production

The production of viruses is done in living insects, Zingg explains. ‘This means we have gained major experience in the production of insects. Within the various work packages of the BIOCOMES-project, we can use that experience for the production of new target species.’
Zingg is also looking, however, for ways to boost the production of viruses through in vitro techniques. ‘That is where BIOCOMES is very helpful for us. Together with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), we are developing a technique to produce our baculoviruses in fermentors with cell cultures. We believe that cell culture production is the future technique for baculovirus production, although it still will take time to meet cost and quality requirements.’

Hurdles in registration

Although Andermatt Biocontrol are enhancing their production of viruses, Zingg knows that production volumes of different virus species will always be limited. ‘As every pest species needs a different species of virus, we have to developed a large range of different virus products, to offer solutions for different pests. But for every new strain we need a separate registration. The current legislation and procedures in the EU for approving biological products, such as baculoviruses, is still far too expensive and slow, in order to bring more environmentally friendly products quickly and cost-effective to the market. That is a message that we, together with the other partners in BIOCOMES, have to keep on sending to Brussels.’

The future is for biologicals

Still, Zingg stresses that the registration of more new viruses and other non-chemical alternatives is most important to limit the use of chemicals in agriculture. ‘Today, farmers still have to rely on chemicals to control various pests. We strive to replace more and more of these products by environmentally friendly alternatives. By offering farmers different biocontrol solutions, we also enhance the discussions about integrated pest management.’

For now, biological products are still covering only a minor part compared to the market share of chemicals, but according to Zingg, biologicals clearly are the future tools for pest and disease control in agriculture. ‘For example, Consumers and wholesale partners simply accept less and less chemical residues on agricultural products. It is, therefore, our vision that in the end, chemicals will have to be replaced by biological alternatives.’

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Consumers and wholesale partners simply accept less and less chemical residues on agricultural products. (Picture: Shutterstock)

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Daniel Zingg
Daniel Zingg
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