- EIP-AGRI Projects
- Focus groups
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Industrial crops are often multi-purpose crops. These crops have the great advantage of being able to be grown on land that may be considered too unproductive for food because of elevated levels of harmful elements. Besides, industrial crops can provide resources for high value-added products and bioenergy and can therefore increase farmers’ income.
Researcher Efi Alexopoulou and Polish farmer Mateusz Ciasnocha share their experiences.
Utilisation of marginal lands and establishment of supply chains
Researcher Efi Alexopoulou is involved in Horizon 2020 project MAGIC. This project wants to make it easier for farmers to start growing industrial crops. Therefore they have developed a database of existing resource-efficient industrial crops with information on their agronomic characteristics, input requirements, yield performance and quality traits for end-use applications. Access to information on the crops and cultivation techniques is important, but so is access to knowledge of the market needs and a well-functioning supply chain.
Efi: “Besides the technical information of the crops, it is important that farmers understand the market need for the industrial crops that they want to start growing. If there is a market need for a certain crop, a supply chain is the second necessary step. Most industrial crops are cultivated in smaller areas compared to conventional agricultural crops. Therefore, their supply chains are not well established, like from the farm to the factory, which can lead to problems in harvesting, transportation, pre-treatment, etc. Bringing together all the relevant actors in the supply-chain is key.This could include farmers, advisors, scientists, farmers unions, farmers’ cooperatives and industry. In this respect, EIP-AGRI Operational Groups and European projects such as Horizon thematic networks (like Panacea) can provide the necessary help to farmers on both how to grow the industrial crop and how to build a strong supply chain.”
Hay for industrial purposes
Polish farmer Mateusz Ciasnocha works on his family farm in the Żuławy Wiślane region in northern Poland, covering 720ha of land. They export hay within in the European Union for paper production, animal consumption and energy. In setting up a supply chain, Mateusz used his network to identify potential buyers. Mateusz: “I spoke with several people in my network and asked them for referrals to their colleagues. You can get access to markets through building relationships with your customers. A reason why we are not venturing into more exotic industrial crops, is that the markets and the supply chains don’t exist here in Poland. But, I am convinced, that as soon as there will be demand for a certain crop, the supply chain will follow!”
The experiences of Mateusz with industrial crops are good. Mateusz: “First, these crops could offer a higher profit per hectare than other crops in marginal areas. Input costs in growing can sometimes be lower than in case of food or feed crops. Therefore, this offers an interesting economic opportunity for a farmer. Finally, we cannot forget the environmental benefits of industrial crops including the potential to diversify your crop rotation, enhance soil health or reduce erosion. So, with industrial crops you can generate revenue and simultaneously improve the health of your soil.”
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