The concept of starting a biocontrol representative organisation started in 2010 when Prof Lise Korsten approached the National Research Foundation (NRF) (KIC Scientific events) for funding to sponsor an initiative to host a biocontrol workshop and establish a representative body. The goal of the workshop was to highlight the most recent and innovative developments and trends in biopesticides with an emphasis on novel technologies and formulations and, to provide a representative platform for interested parties to interact with Government.
The Biocontrol and Postharvest Technology Group at the University of Pretoria, Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology organised the first workshop “Future Focus: Biopesticide development trends and commercial opportunities” on the 22nd and 23rd November 2010, at Pure Joy Conference Centre, Pretoria. The workshop focussed on the latest trends and developments in biopesticide research, product registration and commercialisation, thus providing a “Biopesticide 2 Business” overview of opportunities and constraints. Twenty one invited speakers provided an in depth look at biopesticides.
Invited speakers included Dr Daniel Vazquez, Director Argentine National Institute for Agricultural Research, Prof Nico Labuschagne, Kobus Eloff from Pretoria University, Dr Justin Hatting from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Dr Tim Grout from the Citrus Research International (CRI), Mr Piet Prinsloo from ZZ2, Dr Adele McLeod from Stellenbosch University, Francois Knowles from Tshwane Fresh Produce Market, Ms Wilna Jansen van Rijssen, Regulatory Toxicologist. Invited presentations from several companies included: Mr Keith Danckwerts (River Bioscience), Mr Mike Walton (Sylvan Bioproducts), Dr Christo Malan (Agrilibirium), Mr Hans Klink (Agro-Organics), Mr Ken Neethling (Becker Underwood), Prof Pieter Steyn (Stimuplant), Ms Michelle Paterson (Plant Health Products), Mr Jack Ingle (Oro Agri), Mr Graham Limerick (Microbial Solutions), Ms Lindi Grobler (Dudutech). Presentations from Government was given by Mr Jonathan Maluta Mudzunga (Registrar Act 36 of 1947), Mr Thilivhali Nepfumbada (Technical advisor Act 36 of 1947) and Ms Emmah Monyanga, Technical Specialist, National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications) and provided a powerful overview of regulation, registration and biopesticide challenges. Dr Boitshoko Ntshabele from Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), the Director: Food Safety and Quality Assurance, attended the gala dinner and also gave a welcoming presentation.
In total, 65 people attended the two day workshop and included researchers from the Agricultural Research Council (4), Academia (14), (representing Stellenbosch University (5), Universities of Pretoria (7), Wits (1) and Free State University (1)) and Government officials from DAFF (6) and Department of Health (1) and 40 representatives from 28 companies producing, importing or distributing bioproducts. Three representatives from chemical companies also attended the workshop and some consultants, and representatives from commercial farms and the fresh produce market. Two postgraduate students working on biocontrol projects were also sponsored to attend the workshop. The workshop was sponsored by the University of Pretoria, NRF, Sylvan Bio, Agrilibrium, Stimuplant and River Bioscience.
The presentations and discussions focussed on systems such as natuurboerdery/ organic farming/ environment intelligent farming and future farming, also biological control of pests and diseases, plant growth promoting approaches (i.e. root growth promoting rhizobacteria, rhizobium etc.) and disinfectants used as crop protectants. During this workshop, participants identified the unique platform created, acknowledged the openness and willingness to discuss industry related problems with crop protectant registration and, governments regulatory role. Participants agreed that this initiative should be taken further and the momentum maintained in order to provide long term solutions for industry and government. Having a central database of role players, registered biopesticide products, laboratories and standard test methods was considered important to support farmers, exporters and the retail sector. Relevant documents, regulations and information was circulated to all attendees.
Critical aspects identified during the workshop included the responsibility of industry to ensure product quality and purity and provide customer support and technology transfer. Clearly defining terminologies was also considered essential to ensure a common understanding and to address grey areas that exist in the fields of crop protectants and plant growth promotion. The biopesticide communication platform was established linking industry, academia to government and the Association of Veterinary and Crop Association of South Africa (AVCASA). The possibility of becoming either a sub group or working group under AVCASA was initially considered an option and Prof Korsten approached AVCASA to explore this possibility. At the workshop it was also decided that a more representative committee should be established that can propose a formalized structure. To start the initiative, it was proposed that Prof Korsten will initiate a secretariat, establish an interim contact point and arrange a follow up workshop in 2011 to take the initiative further.
Interested key stakeholders were invited to form a committee to arrange a follow up workshop and develop a framework for the establishment of an association. A working group consisting of 10 representatives volunteered their time to organize a follow up workshop in 2012. The group consisted of: Proff Lise Korsten, Nico Labushagne, Mr Thilivhali Nepfumbada, Mr Ken Neetling, Dr Sean Moore, Mr Keith Danckwertz, Ms Michelle Paterson, Mr Andre Fox, Dr Shaun Berry, Dr Pulane Modisane and Ms Wilma Mac Pherson. Prof Korsten, Mr Andre Fox and Mr Patrick Deal (a lawyer) was tasked to draft the constitution. It was agreed that SABA needs to be sustainable, representative, and credible with integrity, self-policing / enforcing and responsible for technology transfer, industry representation and a platform for key stakeholders to interact with government and vice versa. It was also established that the association needs a home and management that should be responsible for industry growth. It should also maintain a database of critical information for its members.
Prof Korsten approached the Department of Science and Technology and the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum Postharvest Innovation program to sponsor a second workshop and to launch the association. The second workshop Green Chemistry: Sustainable Solutions for Tomorrow was held to celebrate the Year of Chemistry. The aims of this workshop were to gain further knowledge and experience regarding the status of bioproduct research and technology, focus on new approaches and trends in bioproduct science and technology and provide input and guidance to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on bioproduct development trends.
The 2nd workshop was also going to provide the platform to establishment of the South African Bioproduct Association (SABA). This new association was envisaged to enhance the credibility and economic viability of bioproducts in South Africa through networking, governmental and R&D support and development. This new association was also going to focus on the whole biosupply chain representing all parties involved in bioproduct development, research, manufacturing, supply as well as end-users. The most important aim of SABA was going to provide a supportive information platform for the Registrar of Act 36 of 1947 in advising registration and regulatory aspects of commercial bioproducts in South Africa.
The workshop was attended by 103 participants.