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Partnership responsible for Loopex awarded $100,000 for biopesticide work


November 24, 2020
By Kwantlen Polytechnic University (edited)
Dr. Deborah Henderson is director of the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture at KPU.

A partnership between Kwantlen Polytechnic University researchers and an industry partner has won an award for their work creating natural pesticides.

Dr. Deborah Henderson and Michelle Franklin from KPU’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture in Surrey, B.C. have been working with Sylvar Technologies to create baculovirus biopesticides, pathogens that infect specific insects without harming humans, plants, or beneficial insects. The partnership has since commercialized Loopex FC for use on cabbage looper larvae in the greenhouse.

Now the project has received the Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada. The $100,000 award will help the institute with new equipment, stronger partnerships and recognition.

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“Our mantra at the institute is ‘putting more biological products in the hands of growers and landscape managers’,” says Henderson, director of the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture. “When you have those biological tools available, then you can start to figure out how to use them. But if you don’t have them available, and all you have is chemicals, then all you’re going to use is chemicals.”

These products will be a sustainable replacement for the chemical pesticides currently used in agriculture. Henderson says the new biopesticides protect the environment, human health and animal health.

“If you’ve ever eaten coleslaw, you’ve eaten millions of baculoviruses. They’re in your diet, they’re in your environment, and they’re not harmful,” adds Dr. Henderson. “People have resistance against chemicals. There are objections to using chemicals, there are concerns about the environment, and those concerns aren’t going away.”

The group is hoping to develop or produce a larger portfolio of biopesticides for commercial use.

“New products will diversify our company and allow it to expand into new markets in Canada,” says Laura Forbes, international business and regulatory affairs manager at Sylvar Technologies. “Currently we see high demand for effective biocontrol and bio-stimulant products in the agriculture and landscape sectors and we anticipate highly positive benefits from this project for our company, for sustainable agriculture in Canada, and for the environment.”

Founded in 2005, the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture at KPU is works to develop biological products for commercial use. Earlier work to create a fungi-based pesticide received almost $200,000 in funding from the Government of Canada.