Developing Innovative Pest Control Products in Guatemala
Francisco Viteri had a problem.
His company, Popoyán, was facing a massive pest infestation of its tomato crop. Popoyán is a major agricultural company in Guatemala that grows and exports produce, supplies agricultural inputs, and conducts research and development. When the tomato infestation hit, Popoyán tried to control it in its usual way: chemical pesticides. But when that failed to work, the company had to find a different solution.
Luckily, Francisco is a problem solver. Popoyán conducted research and development out of its own pocket to find a new, more effective way to control the pest infestation, and ultimately came up with its first biological pest control product. Once it had proven the effectiveness of biological pest control – which include beneficial insects and fungi – on its own crops, the company wanted to commercialize the products for the region’s smallholder farmers. Convincing farmers to use a new method of controlling pests takes work, but Popoyán knew what it is like to go through the learning process, since it, too, started out using chemical pesticides before moving to biologicals.
Photo credit: FTF-PI
Despite Popoyán’s large size, Francisco believes in putting people at the center of everything. To ensure that this innovation would help farmers, Popoyán put its people-first mantra to work. Farmers in Guatemala are accustomed to using chemical pesticides and were initially not aware of the benefits of biological pest controls. In order to demonstrate the value of biologicals, Popoyán set up demonstration plots that compared crops grown using traditional chemical pesticides with ones using biological products and started holding farmer field days at these demonstration plots. It also started training lead farmers in biological pest control. These lead farmers introduce Popoyán’s biological pest control products in their community and train other farmers how to use them. With support from Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, Popoyán is now scaling up production of its biological products and introducing them to smallholder markets for the first time, in conjunction with training more than 3,000 smallholder farmers.
By being open to innovation and learning and by putting people at the heart of its business, Popoyán developed a product that is less expensive, more effective, and more environmentally friendly than chemical pesticides, and is successfully commercializing it in markets where farmers were previously unfamiliar with non-chemical pest controls. Francisco’s unwavering commitment to innovation and learning from failure has made his company an industry leader in developing and commercializing exciting new products such as biological pest controls.
To hear from Francisco Viteri on how he built Popoyán, go to the AgTechXChange.