The management of Koppert Biological Systems received a Royal Award on 15 September. Paul Koppert and Henri Oosthoek received the award from mayor Pieter van de Stadt. It was the culmination of a week in which the family company celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Both men were appointed Officer of the Order of Oranje-Nassau. One of the reasons behind both Paul Koppert and Henri Oosthoek receiving the award was their tenacity in creating awareness of biological crop protection across the globe. As well as leading the family business, Koppert and Oosthoek make a significant contribution to people in need. For example, they were the founders of the Christian Childcare Programme Foundation in Uganda, which has been helping disadvantaged children follow basic and vocational education since the early 1980s.

Experience centre opened by the King of Holland

Koppert Biological Systems celebrated its 50th anniversary this week with all its ‘partners in nature’. The highlight was King Willem Alexander’s visit on Thursday, 14 September, when he opened the Experience Centre. Paul Koppert and Henri Oosthoek gave the King a tour of their company, where he learned about the use of insects, mites and microbiological solutions produced by the company in international agriculture and horticulture.

Standard bearer for Dutch horticulture

Koppert is a standard bearer for Dutch horticulture. In 2012, it won the first DHL Export Trophy, which is awarded to a Dutch SME company for distinction in export and innovation. The jury called Koppert ‘An example for many companies in the Netherlands’. In 2016, Koppert was proclaimed winner of ‘The New Champions’ by the Financieel Dagblad newspaper. The jury stated that it is a ‘Fantastic fast-growing company that is making a sustainable contribution to solving the global food problem thanks to biological crop protection, and has great potential to shake up the microbiology market’.

Biological pest control now commonplace

The company, which started in 1967 with a type of predatory mite (Spidex) to combat spider mites, is now a multinational with 25 branches in 27 countries. Currently marketing more than eighty natural enemies against pests and diseases in horticulture, Koppert is achieving revenue growth of 12.5% every year (€ 160 million in 2015, with € 6.5 million profit). The company is a global leader in greenhouse horticulture, marketing useful insects, microbiological products (since 1980) and bumblebees for pollination (since 1988). Biological pest control for crops grown under cover has become commonplace worldwide. About 90% of the area used to grow cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes is treated biologically and pollinated with bumblebees.

Expansion in other sectors

Koppert is now expanding its empire into other sectors, such as open-air cultivation and animal husbandry. In 2012, Koppert acquired Brazilian company Itaforte, a producer of microorganisms, giving it access to the market for large-scale open-air cultivation of crops such as soya, sugar cane, corn and wheat. The challenge now is to introduce new products that can increase plant health and yield, despite the narrow margins. One example is Panoramix, launched by Koppert in 2015, a seed coating that encourages seedlings of large arable crops. Microorganisms and amino acids must ensure that crops such as wheat and corn can absorb nutrients like nitrogen and phosphate. For the livestock market, Koppert introduced a predatory fly, a natural enemy of stable flies, which can be used with pigs, chickens and cows. Koppert also introduced a predatory mite to control blood lice in both livestock and laying hens.

The Global Market is Open

There are now thirty companies operating in and from the Netherlands, including Bayer Crop Science, Certis, Biobest, BASF and Syngenta, which are active with biological pest control, pollinators and microorganisms. Koppert is the market leader in this sector thanks to its fifty-year lead. In 2016, sales were € 182 million, with the company employing 1,213 FTEs. Net profit last year was € 12.3 million. Koppert has 25 branches in Europe, North America, South America, Northern and Southern Africa, Russia, China and India. The company employs 400 consultants who help customers introduce biological pest control, bumblebees and microorganisms. Until 2000, sales were largely dependent on vegetable crops, but now seed companies, fruit farmers, flower growers and arable farmers are also important customers. Another big market is up for grabs. According to Paul Koppert, “Our development as a company has only just started.”

Text: Mario Bentvelsen. Photo: Koppert Biological Systems.