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Armenian giant embraces IPM with help of Biobest’s Crop-Scanner App

10/08/2021 - With the help of Biobest’s ground-breaking Crop-Scanner App, Spayka – Armenia’s leading producer of tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and peppers – has successfully adopted IPM across its 105ha production sites.

In 2020, keen to reduce its reliance on conventional chemical crop protection products, the company collaborated with Biobest and Agro Master on an initial IPM trial on 20ha. It proved so successful that within a year Spayka had embraced IPM across its whole production area – with Crop-Scanner App playing a key role in this success.

Spayka

With the largest agricultural holding in the region, Spayka produces agricultural products including fruit and vegetables under the Araratfruit and Vitafresh trademarks – exporting to Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Gulf countries and Europe. Today Spayka enjoys a 70% share of the country’s fresh fruit and vegetable export market.

In 2014, the company built the region's largest modern greenhouse complex - a 55ha facility at Shahumyan, in Ararat province. Four years later, production almost doubled with the construction of the world’s largest hi-tech greenhouse employing semi-closed technologies. Covering 50 hectares in the Shengavit district of the capital – Yerevan – it created over 800 new jobs.

IPM uptake

Arevik Atikyan is the Chief Manager of the Greenhouse Project. “Consumers are a major driving force behind IPM uptake worldwide,” she says. “Here, in Armenia, it is no different. As a company we are keen to minimise our reliance on chemical crop protection products to satisfy consumer demand and optimise yield. Fewer sprays mean plants are less stressed and ultimately produce better overall yields.”

In 2020, working with Biobest and its local distributor Agro Master, the Spayka production team began experimenting with biological control strategies.

“The results have been really good,” says Arevik. “In our tomato crops whitefly and Tuta absoluta are the key pests and we are getting good control using Macrolophus-System and Encarsia-System. In our peppers, thrips are the main challenge and we have successfully adopted a three-predator approach – introducing Swirskii-System, Orius-System as well as Amblyseius-System.”

As with all IPM programmes, regular pest scouting and monitoring is an essential component. With over 100ha under production at two sites – this is a major operation and Spayka employs two full time crop scouts; tasked with walking the rows, inspecting the plants, monitoring the sticky traps and – until recently – manually recording the results.

Remote scouting with Crop-Scanner app

“A fast-growing company with a proven track record for adopting cutting-edge technologies, the Spayka team was keen to see how Biobest’s Crop-Scanner App could help simplify and improve this arduous process,” says Kris Fivez, Sales Manager at Biobest. “Together with Biobest IPM and Pollination Specialist Neal Ward, we worked with their team to set up remote scouting in the crop.”

“The Crop-Scanner App is very simple to use, has many functionalities and delivers a number of benefits,” explains Kris. “Using mobile devices in the crop, each scout enters what they see directly into the App. Each piece of data is automatically linked to the scout’s position in the crop and mapped accordingly – this has dramatically improved accuracy.”

“Our crop protection team can analyse all the detailed data and see exactly what is happening in the crop in relation to pest populations and control strategies,” says Arevik. “At the end of each week, the data is used to build a visual picture of what is happening in each crop. From this, the team prepares a schedule of measures for the following week.”

“There is absolutely no doubt the Crop-Scanner App has helped improve the accuracy of our scouting and monitoring. Not just helping to build up a more complete picture of pests and their population build up, but also how predators and parasites are establishing and working in the crop.”

Saving valuable time

The App is also helping to saving time and therefore cost.

“Crop-Scanner makes it easier for our scouts to do their job as the App automatically logs their position in the crop and so they simply enter the data. The app is also making life easier for our crop protection team – as they can see exactly what is happening in the crop in real time, while tracking the progress of the scouts.”

Sharing information remotely

The detailed data is also shared with Kris Fivez and the company’s external IPM advisers. Weekly meeting with Agro Master’s Mariam Gevorgyan and Biobest IPM and Pollination Specialist Pascal Briand provide an opportunity for all the results to be discussed together.

“Employing the Crop-Scanner App we are getting a much better understanding of how things are progressing in each crop,” says Arevik. “This enables us to make more informed decisions as to what to do and what to change in the programme.”

“It has proved very timely as, during the Pandemic, advisors have not been able to visit our facilities. Crop-Scanner has proved extremely useful in helping us roll out our IPM programme across both production sites. While Mariam and Kris have been closely involved following our progress and providing advice and assistance, however, this has had to be carried out remotely.”

“While we haven’t 100% eliminated the use of chemicals from our production, we are making good progress. We’re effectively minimised chemical usage, only resorting to IPM-compatible sprays when we absolutely have to.”

“Biobest’s Crop-Scanner App has played an important role helping us achieve this. While it has proved invaluable during the pandemic, we will definitely continue to use it throughout our greenhouse operations - it is an extremely useful tool.”

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