Welcome to our New Q&A Series brought to you by Organic Food Iberia and Eco Living Iberia. In the run up to the show, which returns on 8-9 September 2021, we’ll be speaking to some of the biggest names across the organic industry.

Pedro Juan Serna is an expert in agriculture, particularly in the area of crop protection. He started in 1981 with a German company which protected crops that were heavily infected by chemicals.  

Afterwards he worked for Swiss companies that also protected crops, mainly against chemicals, but they also started introducing the concept of integrated pest management. And then, for 7 years, he went on to implement protocols that released insects to naturally protect the crops. They also used chemicals with low toxic levels, as well as biorational products.  

Currently and for the past 17 years, Juan Pedro has been running Certis Europe in Spain. He is also leading a project called Growing For The Future. This project is a proposal with values and protocols for crops, where they use insects and organic products from Certis, registered by the Ministry of Agriculture, to produce in conventional crops, organic crops and biodynamic fruits and vegetables.  This guarantees no residue and 100% food safety for the consumer.  

How did you get into organic?

Certis, and its project Growing For The Future, have heavily invested in registering organic products in Spain. At Certis we want to help different crops and fight against the plagues and diseases. What we use doesn’t leave any residue on the fruits and guarantee food safety and sustainability for the Spanish producers and for European consumer.

Our biorational products are registered and approved to be used in conventional, biorational and biodynamic agriculture. We offer the widest selection of biorational products in Spain, and it is available for conventional crops as well as biorational crops too. This ensures a healthy cultivation sustainably, and always meeting the highest standards for our European consumers.

Certis has been, since its start, a pioneer of investment and registration of products in Spain to be used in organic crops under the Spanish and European registration.

Can you tell us a little about the history of your Company?

Certis Europe Bv Suc in Spain is owned by Japanese shareholders Mitsui, Nisso and Kumiai. It all started in Spain, in 2001, through a production of insects brought from England and released in the crops to protect them naturally. Since then, Certis has been growing and putting in place, in a conventional and organic way, important investments to register new products. Certis has now become a leader in biorational products in Spain with more than 22 registered products with the Ministry of Agriculture. Some of the products Certis has launched are bioinsecticides (Delfin, Turex, Breaker, Neudosan…), bioherbicides (Majestik, Botanigard…), bioherbicides (Irox y Sluxx), biofungicides (Amylox, Armicarb, Kocide, Valcure…).

With this wide range of products, we were able to create a programme called Growing For The Future. This has been created so farmers can put in place effective control against pests and diseases in the crops. We have been able to adapt production to meet the requirements of European supermarkets when it comes to conventional and organic products. Fruits and vegetables are completely exempt from phytosanitary residues.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities facing the organic sector?

The current consumer trends in Europe are to buy organic and sustainable products. If the European consumer is willing to pay more money for organic products, the organic producers must follow a set of requirements. This set of requirements should be registered with the Ministry of Agriculture for crops and organic agriculture. Therefore, the only way for producers to continue growing and make a profit is to follow the Ministry guidelines. Giving organic producers additional value means that we can guarantee the traceability followed in the fields to obtain the best products for final consumers. It is also good for the consumer to know where the fruits and vegetables come from and how they were made. 

And what do you think are the biggest challenges?

The European Green Deal indicates that at least 25% of the production surface will have to be organic by 2030. We, at Certis, are already ahead of the game. The challenge we face is to produce and guarantee that our organic production system works; that it is strong, durable, trustworthy and known by the final consumer. This means that, ethically, we need to follow a guideline to guarantee that the products meet the European and national requirements.

The real challenge to the organic production in Spain is to demonstrate to our European consumers that our productions meet all the food safety, sustainability and the European Green Deal requirements.

What do you think can be done to educate consumers about the importance of moving to organic?

Communication. At Certis, we are convinced we need to explain to all European consumers how we do it and how we follow all the requirements and standards. We are 100% engaged. The education of our farmers is also key.

It is necessary to share clearly the production system we share in Spain. And we want this message to reach the European consumers’ home. We want to explain how our production system is protected by the law. And that you can follow the fruits and vegetable journey from beginning to end. This guarantees that the consumer knows that the product they hold in their hand has no residues, that it’s healthy and sustainable. Hence the importance of investing in a strong communication campaign at a European level.

What do you think the impact of the COVID pandemic will be on the future of organic consumption?

COVID-19 continues to have a brutal impact on the European and global population. One of the lessons we should take as consumers is to make sure we know where the fruits and vegetables come from and inform ourselves on the production process. Has it followed the perfect production process and has the production adapted to the current national and international legislations?

Families want to eat healthier, and they want to acquire more information on the products. Therefore, we, as part of the production system, must work and integrate all the necessary information, and ensure all the controls have been followed. Our aim is to guarantee that the final product is in perfect condition to be eaten by families and consumers.

There is going to be a bigger increase on organic fruit and vegetable consumption. However, non-organic products will continue to dominate the market for a little longer.

Do you have any plans or news that you can tell us about?

Certis Europe and the project Growing For The Future will continue to boost and support the Spanish production systems. Our project, Growing For The Future, will be the key to the fruit and vegetable growth under the current European laws and requirements from the European Green Deal, as well as the supermarkets, but most importantly for the consumers. At this very moment, apart from having 22 products registered for their conventional, organic, and biodynamic use, we are launching new products within the biorational world. Additionally, we are also launching a new range of bio stimulant products, safe to use for the organic agriculture. We will continue to launch additional new products to maintain our position as leaders in biorational products in Spain. 

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