Predativa bets on lacewings for biological pest control

The market was already showing interest in using natural enemies in crops, but large-scale production of these predators was limited due to high costs and logistical challenges.

10.06.2024 | 15:43 (UTC -3)
Cultivar Magazine, based on information from Kassiana Bonissoni

Minas Gerais startup Predativa, based in Patos de Minas, is transforming sustainable agriculture with technology that uses lacewings, a natural predator insect, for biological pest control. Founded by Pedro Camargo Tomaz and Bruno Mundim, the company develops solutions that aim to facilitate and reduce the cost of using natural enemies in crops.

The use of lacewings (Cuban Ceraeochrysa e External Chrysoperla), also known as "garbage bug", stands out for being effective in controlling various pests such as aphids, caterpillars, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies and aphids. These pests attack important crops such as soybeans, citrus, cotton, vegetables, coffee and eucalyptus.

According to Pedro Camargo Tomaz, environmental engineer and one of the founders of Predativa, the market was already showing interest in using natural enemies in crops, but large-scale production of these predators was limited due to high costs and logistical challenges. Large-scale lacewing production is particularly challenging and requires significant investment, as well as facing transportation issues due to the sensitivity of the insects.

Motivated by technological advances, such as the use of drones in agriculture, Tomaz and Mundim decided to invest in lacewing production. “Some technological advances motivated us, such as the use of drones, which was becoming increasingly popular in agriculture. In our case, it was a good alternative, as we send insect eggs to crops, and because it is a very light product, its autonomy could reach 600 hectares per day, a thousand eggs per hectare”, explained Tomaz.

Drones offer several advantages, such as reducing the number of machines and tractors entering crops, which reduces the use of chemical pesticides and the resistance of pests. This technology allows insects to be applied to larger areas in less time, providing a more sustainable solution.

To accelerate the development of their technology, Predativa's founders signed up to the Centelha Program, which offers training, financial resources and support for innovative projects. With the financial support received, they developed the first prototypes of equipment for insect production. The entry of new partners, specialists in Artificial Intelligence and automation, also strengthened the team.

In 2022, Predativa took a crucial step by being selected by the Finep space, which supports innovation in technology-based companies. There, the startup received marketing mentoring, financial support and developed biounits for insect production directly on farms, reducing production costs by almost 90%.

In addition to Finep's support, Predativa was accelerated by Cyklo, an agricultural project accelerator, which connected the startup to farmers in Western Bahia. This connection was essential to validate the technology and better understand the needs of rural producers.

The production of biounits allows farmers to produce lacewings directly on their properties, occupying a space of just 5m² to cover up to 500 hectares. The startup also develops software that will allow farmers to monitor all insect production and application.

Academic partnership and future

Recently, Predativa entered into a partnership with the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) to develop an automated feeding dispenser for lacewings, which will allow for more precise and continuous nutrition of the insects, facilitating mass breeding. This technology eliminates the need to produce another insect, the anagasta kuehniella, as food, reducing costs and simplifying the process.

With these innovations, Predativa is prepared to expand its technology, serving a growing number of farmers and contributing significantly to sustainable agriculture in Brazil.

“Today the average that farmers pay is R$150 per hectare to use lacewings, we have already managed to reduce this investment to R$50 per hectare with our technology”, concluded Tomaz. The startup expects, in the next two years, to serve around 5 thousand hectares, promoting more sustainable and efficient agriculture.

Pedro Camargo Tomaz
Pedro Camargo Tomaz
LS Tractor February