September 2019 - Pests thrive in warm weather – fruit flies, ants and mosquitos to name a few. In the meantime, climatologists expect that summers will only get warmer. To tackle the problem, Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands (top ranking in agricultural science and entomology) and Fruit Fly Ninja have joined forces. The ultimate mission of the partnership is to make all environment-polluting pest control products obsolete.
The collaboration between the Wageningen knowledge institute and Fruit Fly Ninja has been set up to expand its line of non-toxic, eco-friendly pest control products. Some of its range is already sold across Australia in a number of Mitre 10s and IGA supermarkets. The University allows Fruit Fly Ninja to access lab equipment and student researchers. Their current projects include eco-friendly mouse and ant solutions, as well as a poison-free mosquito oil to replace DEET.
“Public health is at stake in Australia, especially regarding mice and rats. They spread many diseases. There’s a true outbreak going on, in strong four year cycles,” says company CEO Ferdinand van der Neut. The company began with its flagship product which catches small fruit flies. The Fruit Fly Ninja targets fruit flies with a natural, non-toxic liquid in a smartly designed container. “It mimics a breeding and feeding place. The fruit flies love to crawl in, but then can’t find their way out. The system works completely mechanically, without active substances that kill the flies. The trap is made from biodegradable and recycled plastic and can be disposed of with the plastic waste,” says the company.
Van der Neut says that the biggest challenge was creating a fruit fly trap that used a green, food-grade alternative to what was currently on the market. “The warning signs on the other traps back then were pretty scary,” he says. The greatest difficulty, Van der Neut points out, was the complex production protocol to guarantee quality and shelf life compared to the synthetic liquids other brands use. However, he says, “we're willing to take up that extra effort because it means the world of difference.”
“The first student project was a big success for the university, students and ourselves,” says Van der Neut. The goal was to make an ecological alternative to ant poison. The main current ant solutions include spinosad, an insecticide based on chemical components that can be harmful to bee populations, among other species. A multi-disciplinary team of students at Wageningen University worked eight weeks almost full time, resulting in two winning concepts. Fruit Fly Ninja’s R&D will work on developing these further, hopefully to release these solutions in Australia next year already.
“In just two years, we have become market leader in fruit fly traps in the Netherlands,” adds company CCO Olav van der Willik. Several large grocery store chains in the Netherlands have picked up the Fruit Fly Ninja, which has led to the company’s growing success. “They embrace our mission and the high demand, which make it a perfect business case for them” says Van der Willik. The Fruit Fly Ninja is now available throughout the Netherlands, and the company is also developing the Belgian market where the first chains are ordering since 2018. The Australian market is the new focus for the “ninjas” since the seasons are reversed. When business is “cooling down” in Europe, it will just be heating up for the land down under. "Hence we will be on a business trip in NSW, QLD and VIC from October 22nd to November 5th for client interviews.", Olav concludes.
Other products now on the market by Fruit Fly Ninja include the Silverfish Ninja (against, you guessed it, silverfish) and the Plant Fly Ninja, which combats fungus gnats, the typical little black flies around plants at home.
* You may watch a video of how Fruit Fly Ninja works here.