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New biological pest control laboratory at the forefront of a global revolution in urban food production.

Deborah Henderson, director of the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley. Photo By Bill Keay. Vancouver Sun

Food Production: Kwantlen lab on cutting edge of pest control. Langley university to work on process that uses predators, parasites and microbes to fight destructive insects

By Randy Shore
16 Oct 2009
The Vancouver Sun

A new biological pest control laboratory opening today at Kwantlen Polytechnic University will place B.C. at the forefront of a global revolution in urban food production.

The lab — the first of its kind in North America — will develop insect-and microbe-based pest control systems for use on small-scale farms and in areas where farming and housing share space.

Cities all over the world and here in B.C. are integrating farming into the urban environment, from smallacreage market gardens to green-roof food production and community gardens in parks and sustainable housing developments.

But for people and commercial food production to coexist in a densely populated urban environment, alternatives must be found to replace chemical pest control, said Deborah Henderson, director of Kwantlen’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture.

So it’s time we made better friends with bugs, viruses and fungi.
“In this province, only four per cent of our land is arable and we all live on it,” Henderson said. “We have to find a way to grow our food on it too.
“With the pressures of climate change and the price of oil, shipping produce from all over the world is not going to be a viable option,” she said. “We have to produce our food close to where we use it.”

In B.C. that means that skyscrapers and strawberries will stand shoulder to leaf, cucumbers and condos will live as neighbours.
Since you can’t spray chemical pesticides where people live, the Institute’s lab will harness the predatory powers of insects and microbes to defeat the pests that dine on our vegetables before we do.
The lab is a complex of insect-rearing rooms, plant-growth chambers and incubation facilities for fungi and insect viruses.

“We think that these products can be used not just in the urban environment, but also on large-scale farms in the Fraser Valley,” Henderson said.

The institute is seeking partners in agro-business to develop markets and conduct testing with an eye to producing commercially viable products. Agro-businesses have not pursued biocontrols with much vigour because the bio-control products are more perishable than chemicals, so customers have to be lined up before production can begin, Henderson explained. Many of the products are likely to be useful only in a particular region during particular times of year when the pests they are designed to target are vulnerable.

The Kwantlen researchers are employing a vertically integrated research and market strategy rather than a traditional supply chain. They will identify the technologies, test them in the field, register the technologies and market them.

“We can already get insects that are predators, parasites that can get into other insects and microbials like fungi and bacteria,” Henderson said. “These are all naturally occurring with no genetic modification involved.”
“We just need to get them into the lab and find out what they do best and how best to use them and how to turn them into products,” she said.

Kwantlen’s urban agriculture experts are already working to create potential markets for their products, consulting with local municipalities about how to approach development to integrate local food production into new communities in the same way as sewers, parks and schools.

Food production on urban fields and green roofs can help municipalities manage storm water, reduce heating and cooling costs and reconnecting people with where their food comes from, Henderson said.

The lab was built with a $2.23-million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, a matching grant from the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund and $2.6 million raised by Kwantlen and the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Foundation.

Link to article here.

1 comment

1 Doug Weatherbee { 10.26.09 at 1:33 pm }

The Post above discusses how the BC Lab will be testing biological control agents that can be safely used for urban farming in densely populated urban environments. The intent of this testing is to develop future biological control agents as products. We already do this now. In a few days I’ll be posting a video presentation I do of the microbiological approach I use on my website sometime this week. Based on the premise in the Post above that we need to farm safely and organically, but effectively and productively as farmers, in densely populated urban environments, I think it going to have a strong relevance to urban farming.

My video presentation outlines a microbiological approach that is used now in cities to grow the usual city park trees, scrubs and turf, plus in urban farming and brown field remediation. I thought you might be interested and will let you know when I make the Post on my site.