One professor and 11 students from Ankara University's Faculty of Agriculture joined hands to produce beneficial insects to reduce agricultural pesticide imports and export these insects in the future. Professor Cem Özkan of Ankara University's Faculty of Agriculture, Plant Protection Department said that they have been working on beneficial insect production technology for about 30 years, adding that they have now started working with advanced technology. "I have established companies with my 11 students. At the moment, we have started producing 10 million beneficial insects at Ankara University Technopark per day for sustainable agriculture."
Imports of pesticides, which amount to $600 million per year, will be reduced thanks to the production of beneficial insects and Turkey will be able to generate $1 billion from their exports.
The intensive and unconscious use of pesticides has caused major problems in Turkey such as the deterioration of human health, destruction of biodiversity, pollution of natural resources, external economic dependence and the return of export products due to pesticide residues in them.
Noting that the same countries sell pesticides to Turkey, Özkan told the Turkish daily Hürriyet: "As a result of R&D [research and development] studies we have carried out with our young entrepreneurs at technoparks, we have developed mass production technologies for many beneficial insects that are a secret. So, the use of pesticides in many fruits, vegetables and grains will be reduced in our country. We have proved this at the producer level in vineyards, apples and walnuts. We have shared the results with the scientific community on field days we organized for farmers."
Pointing out that the technology they have developed so far is no different from its equivalents abroad, Özkan noted that costs in Turkey are lower than in EU countries. "For this reason, we can export smart insects that we produce and earn significant foreign exchange income," he said.
The study has achieved 100 percent success using beneficial insects against the grapevine moth, which is considered the most important pest for vineyards, without using any pesticides. Noting that Turkish raisins are of high enough quality to be preferred by the world, Özkan said that they would start using beneficial insects on corn this year. Since these implementations will provide significant benefits to producers, consumers, exporters, the environment and the national economy, Özkan said that the insects produced could easily be used in cereals, fruits and vegetables. Indicating that they have received 11 "techno-enterprise incentives" from the Ministry of Industry and Technology and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) along with young entrepreneurs, Özkan said that they have been conducting basic research in Ankara University's Faculty of Agriculture. Thus, they have established a medium-sized production plant at Ankara University's Technocity in Gölbaşı with technology that can produce 10 million insects for agriculture per day.
The added value of this technology is very high. For instance, one kilogram of meal moth eggs, which are used as nutrients in the production of beneficial insects in Turkey, is $1,000 in the European market. So, when beneficial insects are produced using one kilogram of nutrients, the added value rises to $15,000. Also, when these beneficial insects are used instead of pesticides in agricultural fields and are successfully marketed, the added value can even rise up to $150,000. When this is taken one step further and a plant that produces beneficial insects by technology transfer is established abroad, an added value of $15 million can be created. Since Turkey can reduce the use of pesticides, Özkan said that it could even produce brand products in agriculture. "When we develop beneficial insect production technology and capacity and offer these beneficial insects to producers, we can have very healthy food as a country. So, consumers will have a healthier diet and the brand value of our products will increase in exports. The use of pesticides threatens the natural balance and causes the death of non-targeted creatures such as bees and fish. Currently, 500 out of 700 pesticides have been banned, and 200 are used. We need to develop and rapidly implement our technologies in biological control and similar methods that are alternatives to pesticides," he concluded.