When Rick Melnick first got involved with the Biopesticide Industry Alliance (BPIA) five years ago, he recalls going to its annual meeting and “we all sat at the same table.” Today, the BPIA hosts two annual meetings with more than 500 attendees at each one.

The then-and-now contrast is indicative of the growth occurring in the biopesticide industry, says Melnick, BPIA board chairman and global brand manager for Valent Biosciences Corporation.

“Today, these products work and they make money,” he says. “Those are the two parts of the equation that make them sustainable.”

That’s not always been the case, Melnick acknowledges. He and two other speakers addressed the topic “Leveraging Biopesticides to Build Business for Ag Retailers” yesterday at the Agricultural Retailer’s Association annual conference in Orlando.

Their recommendation to retailers is to give biopesticides a fresh look and capture the benefits they offer, including:

  • minimal impact on non-target organisms
  • complex modes of action mean the products aren’t prone to resistance
  • enhanced crop quality and yields
  • assistance in residue management, improving export opportunities
  • improved safety profile including low restricted entry interval (REI) and pre-harvest interval (PHI)
  • excellent for labor safety, harvest and shipping flexibility
  • allow organic growers to control pests while maintaining their certified status

“The category would not be growing 14 to 17% annually if these products were not effective and adding value,” says Keith Jones, BPIA executive director.

In 2015, the global biopesticide market was estimated at $2.7 billion--between 2% and 6% of the approximately $40 billion global pesticide market. Jones projects the biopesticide market will reach $4.1 billion in 2018.

Be the early bird. Because biopesticide use is still in the formative stages, there remains a general lack of education and knowledge about the products, notes Tim Damico, Certis USA executive vice president, NAFTA. The good news is there’s a silver lining in that for retailers, he says.

“People are eager to learn about biopesticides, and this is your opportunity to be a leader, the go-to source in your area for growers,” Damico explains.

He cites one retailer who now does more than $5 million of business annually in biopesticides alone.

“Be the biopesticide brand for your trade area—the go-to retailer for biopesticide insights and products by having a good understanding of the market,” he advises.

Retailers can accomplish this through a combination of tools and practices. Damico’s recommendations:

  • Use BPIA resources to help educate field staff
  • Attend conferences dedicated to biopesticide control products such as the Annual Biocontrol Conference & Trade Show
  • Participate in biopesticide webinars
  • Meet with manufacturers’ representatives for specific product training and seminars. “They’re one of your best resources,” Damico says.
  • Use product demonstrations to educate  growers or sponsor your own biopesticide field day
  • Cross-train with other successful retailers

“We’re asking you to embrace and ride the biopesticide wave on the way to new and better business opportunities,” Damico told conference attendees. “Provide unique and value-added services that complement the new biopesticide business you’ll soon be enjoying.”

For more information on biopesticides and how they can fit into a retail operation, contact Keith Jones BPIA executive director at 202-570-1411; jones@bpia.org; www.bpia.org.