“A project to establish an agricultural sector which respects the region, which enhances the value of abandoned and unirrigated land in order to feed into the first integrated biorefinery model in the region. It will be in synergy with the food production chain and centred on high value-added products which can reduce and replace higher-impact raw materials sourced from further afield.” This is the core of the agreement signed by Novamont, Coldiretti, the leading organisation of farmers in Italy and across Europe and Consorzi Agrari d’Italia (CAI), for the creation of innovative agro-industrial chains to create short-chain biolubricants and bioplastics.
In particular, the agreement involves the spread among Coldiretti farmers of thistle, a low-input crop which can grow on arid lands unsuitable for traditional crops and which does not require irrigation. It generates protein flour for animal feed and other raw materials for the production of low environmental impact products, creating a strong synergy with the Matrìca biorefinery in Porto Torres, in Sardinia. These plants make use of technology developed by Novamont through which agricultural raw materials and plant waste are used to produce a range of chemical products (biochemicals, bio-intermediaries, monomers for the production of bioplastics, bases for biolubricants and bioadditivies for rubber) employing innovative low-impact processes.
“If we are to emerge from this crisis it will not be sufficient to develop innovative technologies and install facilities in the regions: we need a new regional development model based on shared projects which can introduce the concepts of a circular economy and continuous innovation, facilitating contributions from willing participants with good ideas, and creating a climate of collaboration and respect between different participants, which is the necessary foundation for any lasting project. The agreement with Coldiretti and Consorzi Agrari d’Italia (CAI) is an important step in this direction,” said the Novamont CEO, Catia Bastioli.
“This collaboration will provide a new income stream for farmers operating in more challenging conditions by introducing a crop that makes it possible to reduce imports of plant proteins for animal feedstock, while also obtaining innovative products with a low environmental impact, confirming our country’s great creative potential”, said Coldiretti chairman Roberto Moncalvo. He added that “the spread of technologies that respect the region and make use of its distinctive characteristics and potential is the way to ensure Italy can achieve sustainable development.”
Under the terms of the agreement:
1. the Filiera Agricola Italiana (F.A.I.) company will promote the cultivation of thistle in Sardinia and enhance its agricultural and environmental value through contracts specifying, among other things, advance payments to farmers to cover expenses for the first two years and a guaranteed income;
2. a programme will be established for the management of post-harvest stocks, following suitable studies, while the network of CAI consortiums will sell products created through industrial processing;
3. research projects will be developed through new European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) centred on rural development, in collaboration with the principal stakeholders;
4. support will be provided for bioplastics which are over 50% renewable by integrated chains. This will involve promoting the re-use of biodegradable carrier bags for separate collection of organic waste, the use of compost in farming to counteract desertification and the use of film for agricultural mulching.