Don’t Miss Opportunities to Market Your Biocontrol Program

NatureFresh Farms emphasizes on its website how and why its Bug Brigade uses beneficial insects and biological control agents, with easy-to-understand terms and education.

I have seen some incredible examples of people using biocontrols, but unfortunately, they don’t tell anyone about what they’re doing or why. The use of biopesticides, beneficial insects, and predatory mites is one of the best stories that we can share with our customers and the public. So why aren’t more of us doing it?

Currently, the agriculture industry is faced with an image problem. Ornamentals producers took the brunt of this on the frontlines as the most immediately consumer-facing industry dealing with the neonicotinoid issue. The industry came under fire when neonicotinoid pesticides were claimed to cause a decline in pollinator health.

It started with a massive bee kill due to the misuse of product on some flowering trees at an Oregon shopping mall that went public, leading to widespread consumer protests and spurring NGO (non-governmental organizations) groups to commission research testing plants for pesticide residues on pollinator plants.

From protests at big box stores to rants on social media, consumers haven’t been afraid to speak out about their thoughts on pollinator health. One has only to Google “Neonic protests” and you’ll see endless images of protesters in bee costumes standing outside of home improvement stores and garden centers, and Tweets and Instagram posts sounding off on pollinator health.

Their collective voices protesting the use of neonicotinoids have been so loud and adamant that big box retailers have given into the pressure and required their plant suppliers to tag, reduce use, or eliminate the use of neonicotinoids altogether. For example, The Home Depot has mandated that growers phase out neonics on plants by the end of 2018, and Lowe’s growers are required to cut out neonics by the end of 2019.

Do Consumers Actually Care?

According to recent research from scientists at Michigan State University (Heidi M. Wollaeger, Kristin L. Getter, and Bridget K. Behe) on “Consumer Preferences for Traditional, Neonicotinoid-Free, Bee-Friendly, or Biological Control Practices on Floriculture Crops,” the answer appeared to be no.

The research found that the latest important factor in the ranking of stated importance was that no neonicotinoid insecticides were used during the production of the plant, and 57% of all study participants reported they did not understand the term.

This vastly conflicts with claims by NGOs like SumOfUs that polling shows American consumers want corporate retailers to eliminate neonics.

In the MSU study, the top decisions to purchase plants were plant species (41%), production type (33%), and price (26%). For the subjects who viewed the outdoor plants, “bee-friendly” and “use of beneficial insects” had greater economic value. The terms “neonicotinoid-free” and “traditional insect control” both had negative scores, indicating they were valued less and detracted from the dollar value of the plant.

How Do We Communicate Our Efforts?

If consumers don’t actually care about neonicotinoid use, will they care about our biological control practices? Will they see our efforts to use biocontrols as an indictment of conventional methods?

Preliminary indications tell us consumers want to buy plants grown with biocontrols. Yet there is still so little information available because the industry has done little to educate consumers and retailers about our practices. We need to develop widespread messages that will communicate our efforts to the masses, and provide more perspective from the industry.

Here are some examples of growers who are doing this right.

Krause Berry Farms does a good job of openly communicating with its customers about its crop protection methods through social media platforms such as Instagram.

NatureFresh Farms is one of the largest independent greenhouse produce growers in Canada, as well as one of the largest greenhouse bell pepper growers in North America. It’s based in Leamington, ON, and over the past few years has constructed 45 acres of greenhouses in Ohio. This grower is super active online and with social media, very cleverly promoting its group of growers known as The Bug Brigade, and telling the story of how it is using beneficial insects and biological control agents. The operation uses positive, easy-to-understand terms like “good bugs” to communicate how and why it is using biological control agents and beneficials, and why consumers may see bugs on their plants. NatureFresh also does a good job of introducing scientific terminology by educating consumers on the names of the insects and what they do to help plants grow naturally. The operation even has a coloring book and resources for school-age kids and educators.

Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery is a working destination farm that grows 200 acres of berries and vegetables in Langley, BC. On its website, the operation explains its outlook on crop protection, saying that a complete elimination of crop protection is unrealistic in the short term, and explaining its integrated pest management practices. Considerations include beneficial insects, biopesticides, and conventional pesticides, and the farm adheres to province and national requirements for safe application.

Sunset Farms, based in Kingsville, ON, operates thousands of greenhouses across North America. Its cucumbers are sold in grocery stores nationwide, where it promotes its Green Grass Project on its packaging. This includes greenhouse products grown with integrated pest management practices (IPM).

Nadine Stielow, who owns Thiel’s Greenhouses in Alberta, Canada, operates 50,000 square feet of growing space where she produces hydroponic vegetables. Stielow is learning and constantly posting videos on social media about her journey into using biocontrols, so her customers are learning right along with her.

Other retail and commercial growing operations are starting to do a good job with posting signs in their stores to educate consumers and employees on these newer pest control methods. You will see signs about why there are sachets in the plants, as well as the banker plants and what they are for. In the retail setting, banker plants have to be labeled that they are not for sale with an explanation why so they are not sold. This has generated massive interest and buy-in from their customers.

There is so much more that can be done if our industry would just take the initiative, be a little creative, and show our customers just how far we have come.

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

More From Biocontrols Conference...

March 23, 2018

Meister Media Worldwide Forms Joint Venture With NXT Events Media Group

The first event of the joint venture between Meister Media (parent company of Greenhouse Grower) and NXT Events will be “Growing Innovations,” which will debut in November 2018 in Las Vegas, NV.

Read More

March 13, 2018

Greenhouse Biocontrol Goes Mainstream

Biological control has moved into the mainstream for greenhouse growers. And the timing couldn’t be better, as consumer demands for more sustainable production methods for the plants they buy are moving back upstream.

Read More
Biocontrols West 2017 Trade Show

February 27, 2018

8 Reasons Next Week’s Biocontrols USA West Conference and Expo is a Can’t-Miss Event

Taking place March 7-9, The Biocontrols USA West Conference & Expo will offer real-world success stories of how to integrate biocontrols along with conventional and organic options in integrated pest management programs.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 13, 2018

Greenhouse Biocontrol Goes Mainstream

Biological control has moved into the mainstream for greenhouse growers. And the timing couldn’t be better, as consumer demands for more sustainable production methods for the plants they buy are moving back upstream.

Read More
Adult Thrips feature

February 20, 2018

Thrips Causing Headaches? New Research Shows Bio-based …

Dr. Rose Buitenhuis will present practical knowledge for growers to implement immediately during Biocontrols West Conference in San Diego, March 7-9.

Read More
Oat Grass Banker System feature

February 8, 2018

Learn the Basics of Biocontrols for Controlled Environm…

Growers producing crops in protected structures, including ornamentals, vegetable crops, and cannabis, can learn about effective sanitation, banker plants, and buying and using beneficials and predatory insects at the Biocontrols USA West Conference in San Diego, March 3-7.

Read More
Adult Thrips feature

February 6, 2018

Biocontrol Track for Greenhouse Growers Reveals New Pro…

The Biocontrols West USA Conference in San Diego March 7-9 offers greenhouse growers practical knowledge on new research findings and an energetic presentation from a grower who’s taking her customers along on her biocontrols journey.

Read More

January 23, 2018

Cannabis Producers to Learn Biocontrols Basics During H…

Registration for Biocontrols Conference USA West, which takes place March 7-9 in San Diego, is now open. The event features in-depth educational sessions, expert advice on new products, a tour that showcases how growers are using biocontrols in their own operations, and a post-conference workshop.

Read More
Botrytis Symptoms on Leaves

January 23, 2018

Jim Faust to Present Research on Biocontrol for Botryti…

Registration for Biocontrols USA West, which takes place March 7-9 in San Diego, is now open. The event features in-depth educational sessions, expert advice on new products, and tours that showcase how growers are using biocontrols in their own operations.

Read More

January 22, 2018

Don’t Miss Opportunities to Market Your Biocontro…

Our industry can do a better job of spreading the word to customers and the public about how we’re using biopesticides and other biocontrols.

Read More
Parisitic Wasp Aphidius colemani

November 7, 2017

Growers Attending Biocontrols East Conference Got a Fir…

The greenhouse breakout during the Biocontrols East Conference provided real life, hands on experience to attendees, from a grower’s perspective.

Read More
Biocontrols West 2017 Trade Show

March 7, 2017

Biocontrols Conference Offers Education, New Product Up…

The Biocontrols USA West 2017 Conference and Expo, held March 1-3 in Reno, NV, highlighted the high level of integration biocontrol is now experiencing among specialty crop growers.

Read More

October 30, 2016

Save The Date For The Third Annual Biocontrols 2017 Con…

Learn about the latest biocontrol products, technologies, and techniques March 2-3, 2017 in Reno, NV, at this year’s conference, presented by Meister Media Worldwide in conjunction with the Biopesticide Industry Alliance.

Read More
Travis Higginbotham

April 18, 2016

Biocontrols Conference Highlights Critical Role Of Inte…

The Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo highlighted the increasing integration of biological controls as a useful component in your integrated pest management programs.

Read More
Travis Higginbotham

February 8, 2016

Biocontrols And Next-Generation Production

Biocontrols are becoming much more established in greenhouse production. In some cases, it’s the next generation of growers that’s helping to support the adoption of this next generation of pest control. Travis Higginbotham, R&D Manager for Battlefield Farms, in Rapidan, VA, is a great example. Brought on in 2014, he is helping Battlefield take the next step in product development, as well as become more efficient as a business and adapt to new technologies and demands from their customers with a more proactive approach. Higginbotham will share information on Battlefield’s nematode program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference and Expo, March 3-4, 2016 in Monterey, CA. We asked him about the details involved with building a new biocontrols program, as well as the future of sustainability in greenhouse production. Q: What are the differences in costs involved in using biocontrols? What costs should growers consider, aside from the hard costs […]

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

February 4, 2016

Biocontrols 2016 Conference Offers Insights And Learnin…

The Biocontrols 2016 Conference & Expo, which takes place March 3-4, 2016, in Monterey, CA, brings together growers, pest control advisers, suppliers, researchers, and other segments of the industry to share the latest information on biochemicals, microbial pesticides, and beneficials, and help you put biocontrols to work in your operation.

Read More