Local forestry company’s products attract global attentionAdam Bowie, the Daily Gleaner Jenny Keleher October 3, 2016
Read the full story at telegraphjournal.ca
A Fredericton-based forestry company has been recognized with a New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award for cutting-edge technologies it has created that can control the spread of dangerous pests throughout forests.
During an event organized by BioNB on Friday evening, Sylvar Technologies received the honour in front of 130 members of the business and research community. They earned the recognition for their development of baculoviruses and pheromone technologies as pest-control management tools.
Baculoviruses are known to infect invertebrates. Typically, immature, or larval, forms of moth species are the hosts, though these viruses have also infected sawflies, mosquitoes, and even shrimp.
“Baculoviruses are naturally occurring diseases usually found within insect populations at low levels until conditions are right,” said Stefan Richard, Sylvar’s CEO, in a news release.
“If one out of a thousand insects gets it they pass it on, and then they pass it on, and so on and so on until the population crashes. We have been able to isolate these viruses for certain given insects.”
When it comes to the use of baculovirus products for the protection of forests, Sylvar has become the leading company in North America, with their products sprayed on agricultural or natural-growth forests to eliminate specific insect populations.
Richard said it’s a safe alternative to harsh chemical sprays, since the baculovirus isn’t harmful to the environment, any other animals, or plant life.
“They don’t infect people and they don’t infect any other animals – only the very specific insects we are trying to control,” he said. “The virus has no [toxic] properties and has to be ingested by the insect to be effective.”
For years, companies have scrambled to find solutions to stop the spread of damaging invasive species like the spruce budworm or the emerald ash borer.
A little more than a decade a go, the balsam fir sawfly ravaged woodlands in Newfoundland. Here in New Brunswick, people in the forestry sector realized a similar invasion could happen.
With the help of BioNB and Forest Protection Ltd., Sylvar Technologies began producing and commercializing tools that could target pests known to be harmful to valued natural resources.
Now, 10 years later, Sylvar counts Andermatt Biocontrol, a multinational biopesticide company, as a partner.
“We really want to increase our product portfolio and add two to three production lines focusing on agriculture,” said Richard. “We’re in a really good position to take advantage of both our experiences and the experiences of Andermatt Biocontrol.”
Currently, Sylvar’s products are used mainly throughout North America. However, it is currently exploring new opportunities in the European and South American markets.
Meaghan Seagrave, executive director of BioNB, said it’s quite remarkable, though not necessarily surprising, that a New Brunswick-based company has become one of the leaders in this important field.
“Sylvar was a company that started 10 years ago. They were a company that we incubated,” she said, explaining that it was one of three knowledge-based companies to be nurtured under the former BioAtlantech banner.
“We supported a potato company, a blueberry/cranberry technology company, and a forest/pest management company. And Sylvar is the one that’s done the best of those organizations.”
She said these products have generated a lot of excitement in the world of biosciences.
“Consider this precision forestry. They’re environmentally safe and safe for other species. So there’s no risk associated with these products. The research and development process for these technologies takes decades,” she said. “They’re extremely important, especially in New Brunswick, where roughly 70 per cent of landmass is covered in trees. We’re a province, literally, of sticks. And if we aren’t protecting our forest properly, that’ll be a huge economic downfall for us.”
Seagrave said it looks like the company is about to take off, thanks to the help of an industry heavy-hitter.
“Their relationship with Andermatt Biocontrol out of Europe is going to open the door to a number of new agriculture-based technologies. So this is a forest pest management company at the start. But as it develops its new pheromone technologies and baculoviruses, those can also be positioned around greenhouses and agricultural crops,” she said. “Given the pesticide control regime in the European Union at the moment, this should open up some really exciting doors.”
Stefan Richard, general manager of Sylvar technologies Inc, holds up a container of Gypsy Moth Larvae at his company’s lab. The larvae is one of many insects their company targets with its forestry management products. PHOTO: DAILY GLEANER ARCHIVES