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British biotech enterprise becomes world’s premier honeybee health company within a decade

Vita (Europe) toasts its tenth anniversary by declaring “green war” on pests. Vita (Europe) Ltd, launched in 1997 with a single product, has now become the leading honeybee health specialist in the world with a range of products, subsidiaries in Italy and France, and a network of more than 60 international distributors.

With products ratified for use in Europe, America and the Middle East, Vita’s influence is now spreading to emerging markets in Asia and Russia.

Despite its prolific growth, the firm’s directors are not complacent. Instead, they are focussing on developing the next generation of greener, more natural products.

Jeremy Owen, Sales Director at Vita, said: “As we mark our 10th anniversary, our thoughts are focused on future opportunities rather than our past successes. Along with the launch of our new range of Vita Feeds to help strengthen honeybee colonies against common debilitating bee diseases, our Italian and French subsidiaries – VitaItalia and Vita-Swarm – bring in high calibre personnel who can react to the market in mainland Europe with flexibilty and speed.”

Dr Max Watkins, Vita’s Technical Director, said: “We will continue to re-invest in new, greener non-traditional pesticides to lessen the economic impact of pests and diseases which are an integral part of the ecological cycle.”

When Vita launched in 1997 as a spin-off from Sandoz, John Austin, one of its commercial managers, said Mr Owen and Dr Watkins were “taking a considerable risk” going into business with only one product, Apistan, an anti-varroa treatment. At the time Apistan was under threat from the first signs of biological resistance and from illegal home-made copies.

Mr Austin, 10 years on, said: “They (Vita) have confounded my scepticism and gone on to develop a highly respected company that is doing invaluable work not just in maintaining the health of honeybees, but also in indirectly contributing to the pollination of many agricultural crops across the globe.”

Over the past decade Vita has extended its presence across the western world and the Middle East and is now making inroads into the emerging economies of the new Europe and Asia.

Last year, the US regulatory authorities approved Apiguard, which is now fast becoming one of the most important treatments in the international fight against varroa mites resistant to first generation treatments.

The complex regulatory environments of the emerging economies are now being addressed and Russia has recently re-approved Apistan and negotiations for other treatments are now well under way in other former eastern bloc countries and elsewhere.

Vita is now seeing the benefits of its ongoing investment into researching novel substances and methods in combating honeybee disease and from its ever-widening contacts throughout the beekeeping world.

From an initial sole focus on its still-effective first generation varroa treatment, the company now concentrates on green, near-natural ways to protect honeybees. The latest addition to its product range is feeds designed to build up honeybee defences against known common diseases.

Dr Max Watkins, Technical Director of Vita, continued: “Over the past decade our collaboration with universities and research organisations has brought to light several novel substances which could be used to improve the health of honeybee colonies and even control pests affecting agriculture and animal husbandry as well as public health.”

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