How Mucci Farm's Grower Reduces Pesticide By 75%
Leading Ontario tomato producer Mucci Farms uses the ecoation platform to improve their IPM program, resulting in decreased pesticide use, reduced input costs, and a higher yielding crop.
Prior to ecoation, Mucci Farms frequently saw pest outbreaks in their tomato crop. To control pest populations, the greenhouse often relied on chemical pesticides. This would force the grower to reapply beneficials to establish a new balance. This imbalanced cycle would repeat several times throughout the season. Its reliance on pesticides had consequences, including:
Within one season of collecting high-quality data, the team was able to achieve:
Mucci Farms owns and operates over 300 acres of premium vegetable greenhouses in Ontario and Ohio and is recognized for their outstanding growing practices.
One of the challenges of managing pests and diseases using IPM techniques in a greenhouse is that pest populations can get out of control very quickly. If the balance between pests and biologicals is changed, the pest population can get out of control in just a few days. The only solution to control pest outbreaks in these scenarios is to use a chemical spray to bring down the pest population and then establish new biologicals. This pesticide use brings harmful effects on users and the environment, and the spray also has negative effects on plants and lowers the production rates.
By digitizing grower knowledge and closely analyzing information using real-time data from the ecoation IPM Forecasting platform, Mucci Farms was able to achieve a 75% reduction in their pesticide use compared to the previous season. This remarkable reduction in pesticides was achieved by empowering a skilled head grower with a historical data set and pest population forecasting capabilities. Using these tools, the grower was equipped with better planning and more precise execution for the next season.
This major change in results started when greenhouse manager Jeff Downton transferred from Mucci’s Huron, Ohio operation to Kingsville, Ontario. While only on the other side of Lake Erie, moving to a new greenhouse always comes with new challenges. Like most head growers, Jeff had struggled with whitefly pest problems in tomatoes. Luckily, Mucci had just launched their initial investment into the ecoation platform to scale their IPM program. This investment provided months of clean scouting data from a 15-acre phase to build a plan for the next season.
As a company, Mucci Farms recognizes that horticultural data in the hands of the right grower is incredibly powerful and is core to the promise of technology driving sustainable food production. The key to successful technology integration in agriculture lies in building trust and clear communication between tech providers and farmers. Only then can data be used to its full potential and make a real impact on businesses.
"High-tech automation and artificial intelligence are very important for the future of growing in a controlled environment,” said Bert Mucci, CEO of Mucci Farms.
As part of ecoation’s knowledge-sharing value, Jeff was able to work with the ecoation Customer Success team to find trends and anomalies within the data set owned by Mucci. Agricultural intelligence takes a shared effort to generate and matters only if it is actionable by a grower. Through careful observation of the map and automated graphing, it was easy to identify where the whitefly population was concentrated in the greenhouse. It was discovered that one section of their greenhouse with interrow lighting was where the pests were most concentrated. With this information, Mucci was able to make more efficient decisions on how to address future pest issues.
Instead of waiting for whitefly pressure to build, the team was able to act earlier in the season and increased the rate of biological controls in the problematic section of the greenhouse. Jeff logged onto the ecoation dashboard daily and followed real-time trends around pest pressure development. The ecoation Customer Success team also analyzed data and highlighted trends in a weekly call. Under this close watch, whitefly damage was reduced to less than 4% of the total greenhouse area, a major improvement compared to previous seasons.
The use of insecticides and fungicides was found to have decreased by 75% after comparing the treatment plans from the previous season—an outstanding accomplishment for any farm.
There are numerous benefits to reduced pesticide usage: reduced plant stress, increased photosynthesis, reduced input costs, reduced labor for spraying, and a safer environment for workers. One rule of thumb is that for every week that farms spray the crop, you will lose 10% productivity in that area. With the peace of mind that empirical data can provide, growers can withhold pesticide applications until absolutely necessary. By scouting 40% of the greenhouse every week with the OKO machine, Mucci offers an example to other greenhouses on how to prevent pest outbreaks for improved plant health with the right technology partner. Because of these measurable benefits, Mucci has vastly expanded the usage of the ecoation platform across its multinational operation.
Are you a greenhouse pepper or tomato grower looking to more accurately forecast yield in your greenhouse? The ecoation IPM and Yield Forecasting Platform have been proven to help.
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Established in 2010, ecoation is an award-winning Canadian AgTech Service provider with a forecasting platform that provides actionable insights on IPM, crop balance, and growth as well as yield and production metrics which helps growers multiply their success while having more control and visibility into their operations. With customers all over the world, ecoation is one of the fastest growing AgTech Companies in the Controlled Environment Agriculture sector.
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