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Brazil turning to Australian agbiotech to fight insect plague

August 2013

The world’s fourth largest agricultural producer is embracing an Australian biological insect control solution to help manage a devastating pest outbreak.

Toowoomba-based AgBiTech Pty Ltd is emerging as a vital player in helping Brazil rein in a nation-wide outbreak of the insect Helicoverpa armigera.

Helicoverpa decimated major crops in Brazil in the summer 2012/13 season, resulting in more than $5 billion in lost agricultural production, despite farmers spraying with traditional insecticides and using insect-resistant GM crop varieties.

A delegation of Brazilian farmers approached AgBiTech in January, looking for an alternative product to manage Helicoverpa.

AgBiTech Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Hawes said AgBiTech had extensive experience helping Australian farmers control Helicoverpa, making the company and its products a natural fit for Brazil.

“Through our partner CCAB-Agro, AgBiTech gained emergency regulatory approval and began exporting to Brazil in July,” said Mr Hawes.

“We're experiencing an overwhelming demand from growers and we expect a significant percentage of Brazil’s major summer crops, including soybean and cotton, will be sprayed with AgBiTech’s product,” he said.

“Brazilian farmers are planning to use our product in combination with traditional pest control methods, and it looks likely to be a vital tool against this serious pest.”

AgBiTech’s biological control for Helicoverpa, marketed in Brazil as HzNPV CCAB, introduces a naturally occurring insect virus that specifically targets and progressively suppresses Helicoverpa without affecting other insect populations.

Manufactured to food-grade standard, the product is harmless to the environment, animals and humans.

To meet the increasing global demand for its biological-based products, AgBiTech officially launched a new factory in Toowoomba Queensland, on 23 August.

At the launch, the company also announced the appointment of a new Chairman, John Stewart, to manage its projected growth in exports as the company targets new markets South America as well as in North America and Europe.

“AgBiTech is going through an unprecedented growth phase,” said Mr Hawes.

“Our entry into the South American market was unanticipated, but it’s proving to be a phenomenal opportunity. Brazil alone ranks among the top five countries in the world for agricultural output, with the top 20 crops worth more than $200 billion.”

AgBiTech expects to secure registration of its baculovirus-based biological control for Helicoverpa in the USA in early 2014. It is working closely with the United States Department of Agriculture to develop a similar solution for the insect pest Spodoptera frugiperda.

The company has also flagged a potential 2015 entry into key European markets.