CropCoat, a coating applied to the pods, comes from Crop Enhancement Inc., a California-based company aiming to create sustainable agrochemical products to boost crop yields. The company has concluded a two-year pilot project for cocoa pod producers in Indonesia, in which CropCoat prevented damage from the cocoa pod borer and mirids, two insects that can reduce yields up to 75%.
CropCoat uses a suspension concentrate that, when mixed with water in a sprayer, creates a thin film that acts as a “secondary skin on the crop,” says Kevin Chen, CEO of Crop Enhancement Inc. “Putting a thin coating on these crops protects them from damage. It is biodegradable, edible, and safe for food and feed.”
In cocoa, farmers typically have to spray eight to 12 times per season. Using CropCoat, spray applications are reduced to as few as two times per season. And, the product is sprayed only on pods, rather than the entire tree, reducing the amount of product needed to protect the crop, Chen adds. CropCoat is a new mode of action that puts “…a physical barrier between the fruit and the target pest. It’s a different way of looking at the objective of crop protection,” he says.
In the pilot project, CropCoat was used by leading cocoa growers in Cargill’s grower network in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Farmers who used CropCoat reduced the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and farm labor needed for spray applications, helping Cargill meet sustainability objectives defined in its “Cargill Cocoa Promise,” Chen says. “The demo farmers with whom we worked reported that CropCoat improved the health of cocoa pods and transformed how they farm cocoa.”
CropCoat is being approved by regulatory agencies in key cocoa and coffee producing countries, and will be available to more growers in those key countries, he adds.
Although CropCoat has initially focused on developing similar crop protection films for high-value specialty crops such as cocoa and coffee, plus fruits and vegetables, Chen says the company is working on new formulations that can be used in crop protection, specifically fall armyworm in corn.
“We’ve started to do work in the laboratory and are seeing some promising performance,” he says. “The next stage is to go out in the field and do some trials, which we will do in the future.”