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This inspirational idea is also available in a Bulgarian version and in a Slovak version.
Bulgarian translation courtesy of the Bulgarian Institute for Agrostrategies and Innovations. Slovak translation courtesy of the National Rural Network Slovakia. Read more EIP-AGRI inspirational ideas in Slovak on the NRN website.
An emerging startup from the west of France has developed a technique to use the large amount of protein (and biomass) from forage legumes in monogastric feed as an alternative to soya. The process has just won first prize in Agrinove’s competition for innovations in agriculture (see below).
Throughout his career working for agricultural cooperatives, Dr Eric Juncker, French agricultural engineer and entrepreneur, was confronted with the issue of protein supplies for animal feed. Often the solution was imported soya, but there were problems due to cost, quality and availability. He always felt that there must be an easier, cheaper, more local and environmentally friendly alternative.
When he set up his project in 2011, he decided to tackle this issue head on. He first worked on other protein crops such as peas, faba beans, lupins. Then, when thinking back to his studies, he remembered how alfalfa (also called lucerne) had a very high protein yield…
Eric told us “Whereas soya provides 1 ton of protein per hectare, alfalfa under the same conditions gives 2 to 3 tons of protein per hectare. In terms of amino acids, Alfalfa also has a better profile for feed and also gives plenty of biomass both above and under the ground. So I thought, how can we use these qualitative and quantitative advantages?” There is, of course, a reason alfalfa is not commonly used for monogastrics- alfalfa contains too much fibre in proportion to protein and is therefore, when consumed by animals, not advantageous from a performance point of view (the fibre is not transformed into energy by poultry nor pigs). There is another reason also, the alfalfa biomass contain a lot of water which is inconvenient compared to the (almost) dry harvested soya seeds. But alfalfa is very cheap to crop and can be harvested for several years. Alfalfa also provides a lot of environmental amenities and is quite tolerant to drought.
Eric began to consider whether it was therefore possible to process forage legumes in a way which could separate the fibre from the protein. After 3? years of testing, he has developed a patented process and products- the “Massaï” concept which is capable of doing just this. the process allows the alfalfa harvest to be transformed on-site into 2 products. One which can be mixed with monogastric (and ruminant) feed which is high in protein and another which is high in fibre and suitable for ruminant animal feed or can be used as biomass. Eric tells us that under normal to good crop conditions, at every cutting, one hectare of alfalfa using his massaï process yields approximatively the same quantity as that contained in one ton of cold pressed soybean cake.
The small company is still in its early stages, and thanks to the prize money from Agrinove they are able to invest and develop further.
Further information: Eric JUNCKER, 0033 607 012 500
In 2008, the departmental council of Lot-et-Garonne in France set up the Agrinove technopole as a strategy focused on agriculture aimed to boost activity and innovation in the area. It is a public-funded structure which encourages and supports new, innovative, agricultural businesses. The technopole consists of a zone of renovated buildings transformed into spaces available for start-up businesses: offices, labs and warehouses. The businesses benefit from a low rent and also from support from the Agrinove staff on accounting, marketing and even technical questions if needed.
“We support mainly businesses based on agricultural production such as machines, soil, seeds, agronomic research etc. There are currently 4 small businesses setting up on the site, this number is expected to grow to 20-30 over the next few years.” Says Hubert Cazalis, director of Agrinove.
The technopole has also initiated 2 clusters, one on the protection of plants and another on machinery. The members of the clusters are a number of businesses and research and training institutes from the area. The idea is that they are able to identify relevant issues, identify new start-ups and be a source of technical support and advise for the existing start-ups.
Agrinove runs a nation-wide competition every year providing a number of prizes to innovative agricultural projects related to production. The winners receive a sum of money as well as a range of opportunities for business support if they set up on their technopole. The Massaï concept above was the competition winner this year.