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Sustainable pest management: Beyond mass usage of pesticides

Heads’s up! There’s a new entrant among the many services that form a part of the facility management.
Pest management, or pest control as it was known earlier, has always been part of facility maintenance, but as this sector has modernised its offerings and adopted an integrated approach, it has assumed its rightful place as an equal in the FM pantheon.

Recognising its stature, pest management exhibitors made a spectacular debut at the Clean India Technology Week with their own dedicated pavilion, cementing their importance to FM heads everywhere. On the sidelines of the Expo, veterans and young turks of pest management came together to discuss the application of sustainable principles to pest management, alternatives to pesticides, optimising dosing to prevent wastage and pollution, and the roles of micro-level monitoring and data analysis.
Introducing sustainability

Giridhar Pai, Director, PECOPP: A sustainable pest management program will be quite different. The pest control industry relies mostly on chemical pesticides; customers will now ask us for alternative approaches, how much chemical we use, and how we dispose of the packaging. Beyond chemicals, it’s likely that customers will start asking us to devise methods and create conditions in which we can prevent pests from entering the facility in the first place.

Recently, when I visited a customer’s site, I learnt that they are a zero waste facility (extending to pest management), which means no waste – either solid or liquid – is sent out of their factory gate. If we are a pest controller in such a factory, we will have to devise methods with which we can comply with such a stipulation.

Jeetendra Gawde, Key Accounts Manager, Bayer: Pest management is dependent on the 4D formula: deny entry, deny food, deny shelter and destroy. We deny entry by closing entry points for pests, deny food by managing food waste well so that pests have nothing to feed on, deny shelter by sealing off places where pests can hide, and only then destroy, using chemical pesticides. If we follow the 4D order, pest management becomes sustainable.

Ravi Kumar, National Head – India, Truly Nolen: Today, many customers demand zero pesticide usage inside their factories. I had visited a client in Lucknow who is into tea manufacturing. As per their law, you cannot use a single pesticide within the campus. Achieving that is a challenge.

Beyond pesticides

Siddharth Balwani, MD, PECOPP: To meet this requirement, we need more proofing products and make customers aware of proofing as the preferred mode of pest control. Many proofing technologies are available across the world for proofing one’s premises; these are slowly coming to India as well.

Vikas Sharma, Founder, Pest Shields India: Awareness among end-users, especially in the b2c market, is very less. We need to educate more and more people about prevention, monitoring, and talking less about chemicals and more about proofing. Chemicals should be the last resort.

Balwani: We need to have more interactions between pest management businesses, housekeepers and the facility community; once we are all on the same side, it will be easier to persuade the end customer as well.

Less is more

Gawde: As of now, everybody’s understanding of pest management is to use chemical pesticides to control pests. We need to look at their environmental impact and optimise the use of pesticides. Many people believe that if you use a given dosage at a higher rate or use a higher dosage, pests can be controlled faster. What they don’t realise is that simultaneously, this will develop an immunity to that pesticide in the pest and add more pesticides to the soil and groundwater.

Whenever we use a product, people say pests are not being killed immediately; they say you are just using water, not pesticides. They expect pests to die immediately after application of the pesticide. We need to create awareness in their minds that depending on the pest, pesticides take 10-15 minutes to act. Only then will the customer have confidence in using the optimum dose.

Sometimes, the dosage is excess. Let us say the optimum dosage for one 1 sq m of an area will be 30 ml chemical emulsion; but we go beyond that and prepare a solution that is at least 100% higher than the required quantity. This is then disposed of either in washrooms or somewhere around the premises. This is something we need to avoid. Only the required quantity should be prepared.

We must always use labelled products. Sometimes, some people use products which are not labelled, but claimed to be effective against a particular pest. It may be an agro product or something beyond regular pest control limits. These products are definitely more toxic, pollute the environment and should be avoided.

Demonstrate results

Balwani: Customers ask us to use pesticides because they think pesticides equal better pest control, and more chemical use equals better results. This happens because we don’t have good ways to demonstrate the results of our services. Sometimes, we use very little chemicals and get very good results. With better monitoring, we can give better feedback to our customers.

Suppose you don’t want to use rodent bait, but monitor the presence of rodent activity in a premises; you show that it is under control, the customer too will be satisfied. We can even show the customer that even with minimal chemicals, we are able to get this much result.

Retrain technicians

Kumar: To achieve all this, we need to orient our technicians first. We should train them not to misuse chemicals, talk more about the biology of the pests, where they breed, their habits and their habitat. This way, rather than using the chemical everywhere, they will perform targeted, specific tasks only, avoiding the mass use of pesticides in the environment.

Analyse data

Sharma: Training them is one task; training them to gather data is another. We don’t have tools to monitor pest management at the micro level. What are the corrections that have been done by the customer and the end user? Data analysis will be really helpful and will eventually lead to a lesser amount of pesticide use.

For example, if you are killing a larger population of pests, you’ll obviously be using more amounts of chemicals. As a business owner, it is helpful for us to reduce our cost on that front. More results from less chemicals come from being very specific about the target area, which in turn comes from a very deep dive into a detailed audit and a detailed risk assessment of the facility.

Some customers come and say, I have a building of 40,000 sq feet…how many services will you perform? It doesn’t work that way. Don’t say you have a 1,00,000 sq feet building and we’ll be putting in this much chemical and people to control it. It depends on factors such as where the facility is, what kind of pest management is currently being followed, what kind of measures have been taken, how effectively have audits been done and what kind of support has been given for those audits.

All these factors should be weighed before designing a complete pest control program for any building. Rather than implementing one chemical, one dose and one standard set of services for all customers, we should formulate a unique pest management program for each customer and formulate SOPs based on their specific requirements.

I’ve come across a client who has 400 stores across India. They want to see the calendar we have planned for them, the services and audits performed, and how many closures have been done. Say one store is in x location and that store does a call out in the month of July that the pest has been sighted; now if we are getting a call out again in September, do we have a data analysis to understand why the problem persisted from July to September? Why has this pest recurred in that building? Was there a mistake on our part? Was there a problem with the chemical? Were preventive measures missed? Was there lack of support from the business partner?

Such learning is very important, even for the customers. Even if the services are being done by the vendor partner at your outlet, what is the accountability of the manager present at your outlet? Does he understand the pest management program? Is he aware of what kind of chemicals should be used?

If we have more informed people in the industry as well as among our clients, it will create better competition and create more opportunity for everyone.

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