Interview with Coralie van Breukelen-Groeneveld, Head of the Bayer Bee Care Center:
Coralie, looking at Fruit Logistica from a Bee Care angle, what would you say was special about this year’s event?
The Bayer stand featured Brazil and Latin America which gave the Bee Care team a great platform to showcase our pollinator projects in that region. We are conducting several collaboration projects with local universities, geared towards crop-specific, pollinator-friendly farming practices. Also, to identify how farmers can optimize crop pollination by improving the wellbeing of their bees. One of these farmers – the world’s largest melon grower – had come all the way from Brazil to visit Fruit Logistica. He also participated in a panel discussion where he shared what Bayer had taught him about pollinator-friendly agriculture and how this increased his harvest. And several visitors to the trade fair stopped by our stand later, to find out more about bees and agriculture.
What was your message to them?
First and foremost, that bees and other pollinators are very important to Bayer: they are of key importance for our customers, the farmers, and help ensure a diverse variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts. We also rely directly on pollination services for our seed production. It is our aim to contribute to the health and diversity of pollinators, while helping farmers optimize their agricultural productivity. Good beekeeping practices and the correct use of crop protection products are for instance key focus areas. And then, of course, there is the art of attracting wild bees to complement honey bee pollination: you need certain landscape structures for them to settle in specific areas.
Stephan Brunner, Bayer Food Chain Relations Manager, and Coralie van Breukelen-Groeneveld welcome the Greek customers and food chain partners at the Bayer booth.
Wild bees featured high on your Berlin agenda which also included a presentation by your lead scientist at the Fresh Produce Forum. Why is this so?
A lot of research has gone into studying honey bee health and our knowledge base has become quite comprehensive. So there has been a shift of public and scientific focus towards protecting a broader range of pollinators, among them unmanaged wild bees. What we see is that some wild bee species have declined in certain regions, mainly due to landscape changes. Wild bee species are very heterogeneous with regard to their biology and many have specific foraging plant and habitat requirements. So, we are running several scientific projects around the world to promote wild bees, through landscape measures such as flower strips, hedgerows or so-called “bee” banks” for the many wild bees that nest in the ground.
Were all your visitors from the farming community?
No. In fact, the audience was quite mixed with representatives from along the entire food value chain and even a few politicians found their way to our stand. Most of all, they wanted to know how to move the public pollinator discussion from an emotional to a fact-based debate.
So what did you tell them?
That I do not have a definite answer, but that this is what the Bayer Bee Care Center has been trying to do since we started in 2012: introducing rational arguments into a debate, which has been particularly emotional in Europe. You can only try to build trust, step by step, and make people aware of the complex topic of bee health, the facts and show them how bee health can be improved, what Bayer is doing, and what role they can play. We have made some progress with regards to honey bee health. Now we are also focusing on wild bees, although this is much more difficult because there are over 20,000 species globally. But our first projects look promising.
Coralie, one last question: You have participated in Fruit Logistica several times. What would you say makes it special?
Oh, that’s an easy one: Fruit Logistica is the biggest fruit & vegetable trade fair in the world – but it feels like a family gathering. EVERYONE knows everyone. And just like with any family gathering, you go home utterly exhausted from talking to all the people, but you find yourself already looking forward to seeing them all next year.
Fruit Logistica has come a long way since it started in 1993:
|From outside Germany:||ca 70%||over 90%|
|From outside Germany||31%||ca 82%|
Dr. Christian Maus, lead scientist Bee Care gave a presentation at the Fresh Produce Forum during Fruit Logistica.