Spin-off helps farmers find green alternatives to pesticides

Biological control products get rid of pests without toxic residues.

A Zurich-based startup is exporting its know-how about biological insecticides to countries such as India and Algeria.

This content was published on December 19, 2003 minutes

Atlas Agro is a spin-off of a program that promotes Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology (ISCB) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Algerian-born Mounir Hassani, founded the firm one year ago to provide consulting services and to distribute sustainable insecticides to farmers in developing countries.

Hassani spent four years developing mycoinsecticides within the ISCB, which promotes research partnerships between Swiss and Indian institutions in biotechnology and fosters technology transfer towards private industry.

His firm targets Algerian and Indian farmers who want to export their produce. They need to ensure that pests and larvae are not present in shipments. The European Union and North America reject shipments containing unwanted bugs.


The biological insecticides it sells are supplied by Swiss manufacturers, such as Andermatt Biocontrol, a Swiss pioneer in the field, and Valent BioSciences, formerly Abbott Laboratories, in the US.

According to the firm, biocontrol is the purposeful introduction by man of parasites, predators, and pathogenic microorganisms to reduce or suppress populations of plant or animal pests.

Biological control has been and is currently used as a viable management strategy for insect pests, unwanted plants, and the control of nuisance reptiles and mammals, said the firm.

Unlike chemical insecticides, biocontrols should have a low risk of toxic effects on non-target organisms and does not adversely affect the health of operators or population.

Such methods do not build-up toxic residues in the environment and there is very little risk of resistance build-up.

Valerie Thompson

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