Local bug business wins honor

by Sheli Ellsworth

On October 18, Rincon-Vitova Insectaries won the international 2016 Regenerative Business Prize at the Regenerative Business Summit in Seattle Washington. Founded in 1959 by entomologist Everett Dietrick who passed away in 2008, the company is located at 108 Orchard Drive, just outside the Ventura city limits. RVI pioneered the commercial production of biological controls in pest management and produces, imports and distributes natural enemies for the control of pests like houseflies, beetles, mites, whitefly, grubs, moths, snails, and many others. pests. They also supply beneficial organisms like nematodes (to control pests that live in the soil) and microbials to kickstart soil biology. They are very active promoting living soil, because an acre of healthy living soil has six tons of microbes digesting wastes, protecting roots, sequestering carbon dioxide,  opening up soil structure and conserving water. They also sell  botanicals like orange oil and hot pepper extract to control pests. RVI offers technical support for the use of their products as well as educational materials about composting, organic gardening, and protecting pollinators.

RVI serves thousands of large and small farms, home gardens, nurseries, green houses, landscape and interior plantscapers, livestock and composting operations, stables, hotels and resorts, zoos, botanical gardens, government agencies, many research institutions, and private residences.

Everett taught that the key to pest management is understanding the behavior and life cycle of pests and of the beneficials that attack them. “Often the most effective strategy does not require the purchase of products. It requires knowledge of how to integrate features of crop rotation, variety, fertility, tillage, irrigation, insect attractant, and habitat management that can make a big difference in the ratio of good bugs to bad.” Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is not just one thing; it is a series of activities, which fosters natural enemies to keep pests within tolerable limits. IPM uses pesticides only as a last resort.

The company, operated by a dozen employees, occupies one acre of land, has $1.3 million in gross sales and ships millions of bugs all over the continental US. The biggest obstacle to their business is the competition from the marketing of chemical pesticides. Since insects cannot be patented and have relatively short life cycles, “success depends on expert guidance for the customer to set up a program.” RVI’s licensed pest control advisor, Ron Whitehurst, says that as farmers move from chemical toward biological farming they need a broader ecological regenerative mindset Trends related to global warming and the potential of biological agriculture to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere has increased the company’s sales. At present, about half the company’s business is concentrated on fly control and the remainder on field crops, orchards, zoos, botanical gardens and conservatories.

Rincon-Vitova also supports training projects of the Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology and a subsidiary company produces the D-Vac Vacuum Insect Net used for monitoring the insect ecology on farmscapes and landscapes. Go to http://www.rinconvitova.com for information and newsletters.

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