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Sustainable crop protection from Flanders spreads its wings

Biobest, leading global player in biological control and pollination, is off to a flying start in the US. Following the acquisition of American sector peer Beneficial Insectary, the biotech company from Flanders secures its reign in the field of 'beneficial insects'. “On a global scale, this takeover accounts for growth of 15 to 20%,” says CEO Jean-Marc Vandoorne.

The place to ‘bee’

What started 33 years ago as a bumblebee farm and a greenhouse full of tomatoes has grown into a worldwide business. Today, Biobest has breeding centers in Mexico, Morocco, the US as well as the Kempen region of Limburg in Flanders. The multinational from Westerlo employs 1,600 people at its 12 production sites around the world and recorded an annual turnover of EUR 150 million. Its impressive growth track even earned the company Flanders Investment & Trade’s 2018 Export Lion Award in the category 'Companies with 50 or more employees'.

Climate-controlled chambers and greenhouses in the breeding centers are used exclusively for growing tiny mites, slightly larger insects, and bumblebees. “We use the bumblebees to pollinate plants in greenhouses in a natural way,” says CEO Jean-Marc Vandoorne. “The others are used to combat pests.”

Stronger together, all for the hive

American peer Beneficial Insectary has been active in the same business for nearly as long as Biobest, becoming a market leader in the US. Now the bug giant from Flanders throws down EUR 42 million for its sector partner, its biggest acquisition up to date.

This transaction fits perfectly into our strategy to be the most reliable global provider of biological control and pollination for growers of high-quality crops.

Jean-Marc Vandoorne
CEO Biobest Group

As Biobest was already commercially active in the US, both companies will continue on their same respective paths. The biggest efficiency gain lies on the operational side of things. “Much of what we sell in the US is still imported from Europe,” explains Vandoorne. “We intend to produce 90% of what we sell in North America locally, as we do in Europe.” In doing so, Biobest will be able to guarantee better quality at a lower price.

The bee’s knees of biotech in Flanders

Biobest is just one example of Flanders’ thriving agribusiness ecosystem. Belgium’s northern region is home to a variety of agricultural firms and is a major R&D hub in the field of green biotechnology, where sustainable and eco-friendly solutions reign supreme. What’s more, Flanders is considered a leader in intensive farming. Strategic research centers imec, VIB, VITO and Flanders Make, for example, are the driving forces behind a wide range of precision farming and farm automation innovations.

More info

Reported by
newspaper De Tijd
16 December 2020

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