LCC member Koppert Biological Systems is a good example of how a small country can be great at something. Koppert is regarded worldwide as the specialist in the field of biological crop protection, especially in the field of natural enemies. With the knowledge and products that the family business has developed since its foundation in 1967, it now plays a significant role in international agriculture. We discuss with employee Erik van Santen how Koppert got into the cannabis arena.

The company

Founder Jan Koppert started out as a regular cucumber grower in Berkel en Rodenrijs. While searching for ways to tackle pests on his cucumbers without chemicals, he discovered a natural enemy (a parasitic wasp) of his main problem (spider mite). With this, Koppert laid the foundation for controlling pests with the aid of natural enemies, and the rest is history. The company has also grown in the areas of resilience and pollination. Their products are used in more than 100 countries, and via the website you can choose from the company’s 32 international offices. Koppert can be found from Canada to Brazil, and from Greece to South Korea.

Senior consultant, Erik van Santen has been working at Koppert for over 30 years. He explains why so many subsidiaries are needed: “after all, these are living creatures that you cannot simply send by post. Permits are often required for transport, and the products must be used with local expertise as growing conditions can be different everywhere”. Now that chemical pesticides are increasingly becoming banned, more solutions are also needed. And what’s more, new pests and challenges are constantly being discovered in cultivation. For all these reasons, Koppert also sees itself as a genuine centre of expertise. The head office provides a great deal of guidance and training, which is passed on to the customer through the company’s local offices.

Cannabis

During his work Erik often travelled to Canada for vegetable cultivation and floriculture. So, when cannabis was legalized in Canada and different kinds of Licensed Producers (LPs) were starting to take off, Erik had a front row seat. He was the perfect person to answer questions from the various LP directors: Was cannabis something their company should be involved with?! Koppert Canada’s insight to take cannabis cultivation seriously plus the lasting impression Erik made in Canada ultimately had a significant positive impact on that decision. And that’s how Koppert got to work with cannabis! Now, a few years later, Erik coordinates the company’s international cannabis strategy. His title is senior consultant/coordinator medicinal cannabis. But in fact, Koppert does business with all legal cannabis growers.

Unsurprisingly, most of the sales currently come from the US and Canada, which simply have the most LPs. But in addition, there are now more and more countries that also want (and are allowed) to legally grow cannabis, such as Spain, Denmark, Germany, Portugal and North Macedonia. In almost all these countries Koppert has a subsidiary, or they work with local consultants who know the market well. And Koppert is not limited to indoor cultivation only. Erik also sees interesting opportunities for biological control in the open field cultivation of CBD hemp, especially now that the EU is banning more and more pesticides. Koppert already does this for soya crops in Brazil,  and for strawberries in the USA, with the insects being distributed over the fields by Natutec Drone.

Koppert has its own technical department for this, where they personally develop the equipment in such a way that their products can be used optimally!

Knowledge and quality

Biological control is constantly evolving, because a lot must be learned about the correct application of all these natural enemies across different types of crops. Moreover, cannabis is increasingly becoming a new form of large-scale monoculture, so all kinds of plagues are spreading to this crop. An example is the cannabis aphid  that in recent years has specialized itself in the cannabis plant and can cause enormous damage. R&D is therefore an important department within Koppert. They have even set up a lovely experience centre in the head office to show visitors the company’s inventions and developments.

According to Erik, the cannabis industry helps a lot with the continued development of high-quality Koppert products. Cannabis cultivators demand things that no other grower asks for. This is because cannabis is often used as a medicine, and the final quality must meet strict pharmaceutical requirements. And so, there are many kinds of questions about the products that Koppert supplies, such as: What is in them? How is it made? Which substances eventually come into contact with the plant? And those questions in turn form the basis for new research. Erik is convinced that the company’s strong focus on quality, security of supply and research will be decisive for his cannabis customers.

In addition to supplying natural enemies, Koppert also makes various bio stimulants, which are intended to make the plant more resilient. For cannabis, for example, the products Trianum and Vidi Parva have been tested in cannabis cultivation trials at Wageningen University & Research, and new studies are also planned with Delphy. Thus, more and more focused and proven products are becoming available for cannabis growers.

All in all, Kopperts business from cannabis has continued to grow. Without wanting to mention exact numbers Erik indicates that the turnover from cannabis is quite significant, with sufficient room for growth.

Koppert and the LCC

We spoke with Erik about Kopperts membership with the LCC. How are you finding it? What is going well and what could be improved? He replies that it is nice to work in a group and to share knowledge. Jointly we get a better picture of the cannabis world, in which a lot happens and where major differences can exist between countries. Gathering information from affiliates and consultants worldwide helps to create useful country profiles. I would also like to see us get together at conferences and trade fairs, with the LCC putting on more of a public face. In that regard, the recent presence of several LCC members at Cannabis Business Europe in Frankfurt was a good experience.

Erik makes an important comment: ‘networking is priceless, but it has to be worth the cost’.

Finally, Erik notes that the enthusiasm about cannabis is growing within Koppert. However, the cultivation of cannabis is not yet permitted all over the world and getting setup can sometimes be a slow process. If the process takes too long, Erik sees a risk of that enthusiasm subsiding. Cannabis market fatigue is not there yet, but it may come. In Canada and other cannabis countries a few major parties recently collapsed, so the growth isn’t necessarily endless, he warns. And there are still increasingly more consultants and suppliers of products for cannabis cultivation. But really, cannabis is just another crop that needs to be grown correctly and well. And at Koppert they seem to know what they are doing!

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