targeting protein sovereignty

© Meric Tuna

The oilseed sector (sunflower, rapeseed, soya) has a bright future. It is the source of much of the feed produced for livestock. Its quality is one of the keys to the development of sustainable agriculture. The sector also has a crucial role to play in reducing our carbon footprint with the production of biofuels. The Avril Group is a showcase of this strategic sector in France and as such contributes to its international consolidation by supporting local production in a number of countries, including in Africa. Here we meet Gabriel Krapf, Head of Industrial Operations at the Avril Group.

How can agriculture and livestock reduce their environmental footprint in a global context of high population growth?

Demographic growth will obviously have a direct impact on this footprint, especially on the African and Asian continents. Above all, we have to think about how to develop a sustainable agricultural model for these regions. This is what we are trying to achieve through various projects in a number of countries, with an approach based on industrial and agricultural co-investment. We have also launched a co-operative project with the Moroccan government as part of the “Green Morocco”[1] project to develop local oilseed production. We are running similar projects in Tunisia and Senegal. Our goal here is to support high-quality animal feed production, of which protein crops are the raw material.

 

In developing countries, demand for animal proteins is rising. Healthy animal feed is a necessary precondition for healthy human food. It is only one part of the chain, but it is essential to promote sustainable production.

Comment l’agriculture et l’élevage peuvent-ils réduire leur empreinte environnementale, dans un contexte global de forte croissance démographique ?

La croissance démographique aura évidemment un impact direct sur cette empreinte, en particulier sur les continents africain et asiatique. Il faut, avant tout, réfléchir à l’élaboration d’un modèle d’agriculture soutenable pour ces régions. C’est ce que nous tentons de réaliser à travers différents projets dans certains pays, selon une logique de co-investissement industriel et agricole. Nous avons ainsi engagé une coopération avec le gouvernement marocain dans le cadre du programme « Maroc Vert[1] » afin de développer la production locale d’oléagineux. Nous menons des projets similaires en Tunisie et au Sénégal. Notre objectif est ici de soutenir une production d’alimentation animale de qualité, dont les protéagineux constituent la matière première.

 

Dans les pays en développement, la demande en protéines animales augmente. Or une alimentation animale saine est une condition nécessaire pour une alimentation humaine saine. Ce n’est qu’un maillon de la chaîne mais il est essentiel pour favoriser une production durable.

In a context of increasing global need for protein, does sustainable feeding mean replacing animal protein with plant protein?

It’s important not to see the two as opposed to each other. Both types of protein are necessary. It is vital to avoid deficiencies. Milk, eggs, meat and fish do not only provide protein. They also supply other compounds essential to humans. Sustainable food will probably involve replacing some animal protein with plant protein: changes in consumers’ tastes, their desire to try new things and their need to take concrete action to help save the planet are all leading to an accelerated adoption of products made with plant proteins, but I don’t believe meat eating will stop. Once again, in developing countries, animal proteins are in short supply and both are needed.

What significant action has the Avril Group undertaken to promote sustainable agriculture? What are the lessons learned?

In France, I could mention Oleo100, the first biofuel made entirely from a renewable resource, which we launched in 2018 for transport professionals. It can fully replace diesel. The new fuel was developed in direct contact with the agricultural oilseed sector. One hectare of rapeseed can produce 1,500 litres of Oleo100 and 2,000 kilos of GM-free seedcake for animal feed at the same time. This makes it possible to ensure supplies of GM-free French dairy feed and guarantee “protein sovereignty”, which aligns with the President of the French Republic’s comments at the last G7 summit in Biarritz in August 2019. This is a remarkable benefit for the consumer and a competitive advantage for our regions. Thanks to this strategy, we can enter a virtuous circle, resisting imports of GM-based soya seedcake, which may be cheaper but cannot be traced and generates deforestation in the Amazon.

 

Another initiative is the Group’s current development with DSM, producing a purified rapeseed protein—referred to as protein isolate—for human consumption. An industrial production unit will be operational in France by 2022. This will be a world first. It will offer food producers a French regional, sustainable and GM-free solution enabling the preparation of meat substitutes (known as “meat analogues”) and other food products meeting strong market demand, since the emergence of plant products with great taste qualities.

 

 © Martin Bisof 

How can we strengthened the circular economy within the extremely wide diversity of agricultural sectors across the world?

We cannot, indeed, act alone. It is essential for the major regulations on international trade to incorporate or reintroduce sustainability issues into their corpus. A product should not be marketed it if creates deforestation. This is the approach we will take as contributors to the renegotiation of the European Union–Mercosur free trade agreement (reducing customs tariffs between the two regional blocs by 90%, including in the food sector). Decisions at this level will clearly affect the European Union as a whole.

 

But beyond these regulatory aspects, consumers’ behaviour is changing: good, high-quality, GM-free products will be more expensive than imported products, but produced in compliance with environmental restrictions, and the new generations have understood that individual behaviour has a global environmental impact and they are increasingly attuned to the quality of products and how they are produced. It is also up to the mass retailer to change their model: easy consumerism (based on price alone) has had its day.

 

Another example of the development of the sustainable circular economy is Terrial, a subsidiary of Avril in which SUEZ is a shareholder. Terrial recovers byproducts and organic waste from agriculture to produce natural, chemical-free fertilisers, helping to ensure that nutrients and carbon are returned to the soil and improving soil fertility.

 

inspirations

The region, area or agricultural origin that inspires you most?

It is the sector as a whole that inspires us, from farmland to the consumer, in the effort to bring the two as close together as possible.

A work of art (literature, visual art, etc.) to change our vision of the future of the human food supply?

Notre agriculture est en danger which Xavier Beulin, the former president of FNSEA[2] and the Avril group published just before his death.

Your favourite agricultural product?

Rapeseed, sunflowers... in short, oilseeds.

 

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Avril is an agro-industrial and finance player in the oil and protein crop sectors. It is present in France and internationally in sectors as diverse as human foods, animal feeds and expertise, renewable energy and chemistry.

[1] Launched in 2008, the “Green Morocco” plan aims to modernise Moroccan agriculture to make it a primary lever for the country’s social and economic development. The programme includes support for agricultural investment, promotion for local crops and stimulation for exports.

[2] French national federation of farmers’ unions.

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This article was published in the seventh issue of open_resource magazine: "Sustainable food, sustainable planet"

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