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2 December, 2018 - 22:19 By Kate Sweeney

Bee friendly insecticide creates a buzz around Europe

A UK-Italian business is cornering the EU market with an innovative crop protection technology based on a bee-friendly insecticide.

Headquartered in Cambridge, AlphaBio Control developed the technology from discoveries made at the convergence of natural chemistry and microbiology. 

Its lead product, FLiPPER®, was launched in 2017 by original founders Iain Fleming and Alfeo Vecchi and has just won a Silver Award for Environmental Best Practice at The Green Organisation’s Green Apple Awards 2018. The ceremony at the Houses of Parliament was hosted by Liz Kendall MP.

FLIPPER is a natural, environment and bee-friendly organic insecticide derived from the natural by-product of extra virgin olive oil. 

It is being used around Europe to control aphids, whitefly, thrips, mites, psylla, leaf hoppers and scale with negligible impact on honey bees, bumble bees, pollinators, other beneficial insects – or humans. 

It is currently available to the UK wholesale market via the horticultural distributor Fargro Ltd and is also widely used in France, Italy, Greece, Spain and the Netherlands. 

In the UK it currently has label approval for use on strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers under protection and off label approval for peppers, chillies and aubergines. Further, more extensive and conventional label approvals are being processed and should be available from next year.

Iain Fleming says: “The launch of FLiPPER® last year marked the culmination of several years of research and development followed by several more years acquiring the necessary regulatory approvals.  It has been a long process. 

“To get this recognition from The Green Organisation for our work in finding solutions for safer agricultural products without further damaging the natural environment is superb.” 

Fleming said the product left no detectable residue, could be used at any point in the growing season, required zero harvest intervals, had a raw material that is food grade and is certified organic.

This year in Italy the product will be applied on an area of 8,750 hectares – mostly on fresh tomatoes and wine grapes to control aphids and leafhoppers respectively.

In Spain the area of use is 3,000 hectares (various fresh fruits and vegetables to control whitefly and thrips); in France 1,000 hectares (principally strawberries to control mites; in the Netherlands ,8250 hectares (both protected and field crop fruits and vegetables to control an number of pests ) and in the UK it is about 750 hectares (tomatoes and strawberries to control whitefly and aphids).  

AlphaBio is in the process of procuring the necessary formal consents with the intention that the product should be permitted for use on all fruit and vegetable crops and has a realistic expectation that within three years the product will be being used on 125,000 hectares per annum.

More than 175 fully replicated field trials have been conducted in multiple climatic zones to test FLiPPER®’s efficacy. Tests covered different methods of application and were trialled on queens, drones and worker bees, with no noted mortalities. Because of its profile, it is exempt from EU residue testing requirements.  

Registered in the UK and headquartered in Cambridge, AlphaBio Control’s commercial offices are in Reggio Emilia, Italy. 

Research director, Alfeo Vecchi, says: “We have created a new process using only heat and pressure that allows us to extract the carboxylic acids of the insecticide from the by-product of extra virgin olive oil.

“We believe this presents an important development in the on-going challenge of finding solutions for safer agricultural products without further damaging the natural environment.” 

Initial development costs were met from private funding but additional capital required to compile a dossier for regulatory approval came from an overseas industry investor. 

Sales are steadily increasing and the company is recruiting extra staff for the UK, Italy and recently opened Netherlands office. It believes that within the next 18 to 24 months the business will become self-funding.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Yung Burden (PGT-Reclaimed in Vietnam, Green World Champion of Champions), Alfeo Vecchi and Iain Fleming

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