Creating new opportunities for sustainable fruit and vegetable production in Asia and Africa
Posted on 29/11/2017
The total value of soft fruit production in the UK alone was estimated to be worth £695M in 2015, contributing towards 18% of the total fruit market in the UK (Defra report 2016).
Soft fruit production can be highly sensitive to insect damage resulting in fruit spoilage, and this is an especially serious problem in developing countries. For example, in Bangladesh the fruit fly is responsible for destroying 25 – 60% of fruit and vegetables. Traditional insect control is undesirable for soft fruit production due to restricted efficacy, build-up of pesticides residues, the emergence of pesticide resistance, and unaffordability in many developing countries.
Alternative approaches – including pheromone based attractants and bio-rational control – represent a widely-applicable new approach to the management of crop pests that reduces the use of conventional pesticides and is compatible with integrated pest management and sustainable agricultural intensification.
Working with a network of fruit producers and horticultural research organisations from the UK, Asia and Africa, Russell IPM developed pheromone based male and female specific attract and kill systems for the control and real-time monitoring of fruit flies, as well as novel soil treatments for insect eggs and larvae in the soil. Field trials using the improved systems have shown a marked reduction in crop failure without the need for pesticide application. Use of Russell IPM attract and kill systems in Bangladesh enabled farmers to reduce fruit fly infestation by 68% in mango, by 83-88% in guava, and by 88-91% in bitter gourd, compared to untreated plants.
Russell IPM and their project partners are actively engaged in farmer training and knowledge sharing activities in major fruit production areas in Bangladesh. Use of the attract and kill system has high farmer acceptance in Bangladesh and other countries where they were trialled, and demand is growing.
The close working relationship developed between industry and government agencies in these projects has allowed Russell IPM to fully understand their regulatory requirements and obtain early product approval. The company grew in size from 20 staff in 2007 to over 60 in 2017, including a highly skilled research team. Russell IPM’s innovative approaches to pest control has been reported in the both the scientific literature and global media, and secured numerous enterprise awards.
How did the KTN, Innovate UK and DFID help?
KTN’s Agri-food Team has helped Russell IPM identify and build relationships with key academic collaborators (East Malling Research, Greenwich University Natural Resources Institute, National Institute for Agricultural Botany, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, and National Agriculture Research Council of Nepal).
KTN provided key support to help Russell IPM to secure new collaborative projects worth over £400K that have helped grow their R&D capabilities and support their business growth. This allowed Russell IPM to develop new products and expand their UK and international business in developing countries.
Dr Nayem Hassan, Head of R&D at Russell IPM said, “Support from Innovate UK and KTN has been essential in growing our R&D capabilities for the development of new products for emerging markets.”
Russell IPM trades globally in over 80 countries including the EU, USA, Africa, and Asia, and holds several patents in the UK, EU, and USA.
The Agricultural Ministry of Bangladesh has funded a £3M project with Russell IPM to support high value export markets for pesticide residue free fruit and vegetable production. Russell IPM will deliver technology transfer and training on bio-rational pest control solutions. The company’s sales related to Innovate UK projects are expected to grow annually by £1M over the next three years.
Russell IPM is looking to expand the range of their products and services and to add real-time monitoring using digital imaging technology, as well as the development of more advanced soil treatments. Russell IPM continues to build global capacity through maintaining a strong international network of collaborators in different countries supported by the Department of for International Development (DFID) and the Department for International Trade (formerly UKTI).
If you have an innovative agri-tech idea that you would like to take forward please feel free to contact a member of the KTN Agri-Food Team.
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