French ‘bug farm’ thrives on demand for pesticide-free fruit

Sandra Ferrer

Farmers in western France are doubling down on an unusual crop: breeding millions of tiny predatory bugs and wasps to protect tomato plants without resorting to the insecticides that consumers are shunning.

“Here, we’re in one of the greenhouses for a bug that’s called the macrolophus,” says Pierre-Yves Jestin, as clouds of the pale green insects swarm around his hands.

Jestin is president of Saveol, the Brittany cooperative that is France’s largest tomato producer, cranking out 74,000 tons a year.

For several years the cooperative has promoted “pesticide-free” harvests in response to growing concerns about the impact of harsh chemicals on humans and the environment.

At Saveol’s insect farm, the predatory bugs feast on moth eggs spread over hundreds of tobacco plants, which are in the same family as tomatoes and eggplants.

The broad leaves make it easy when workers cut the tops off the plants and shake the insects into a giant metal funnel for packing.

Some 10 million macrolophus and 130 million micro-wasps are produced each year, and Saveol claims it is the only growers’ cooperative in Europe with its own insect-raising facility.

> Source: PHYS.ORG