Bio-based economics is slowly getting started

It is not just agriculture that needs to become more sustainable. Other sectors are also burdening the environment and are forced to adapt their production methods. A good example is the textile industry and construction. Raw materials and products still come from the chemical industry.

The chemical industry produces and processes raw materials and products through chemical modifications of these substances. For example, natural gas and oil are distilled or other substances are diluted in the factories. These processes and products are often extremely harmful to the environment.

More and more products are coming on the market, which are helping to make the textile industry and construction more sustainable. For this, raw materials produced by agriculture are often used. The most well-known crops are hemp, flax, elephant grass and sorghum.

Biobased Innovation Garden in Colijnsplaat in Zeeland has been working on new options for bio-based materials since 2014. There are always experiments with other plants: from flax to tobacco, from cotton to Russian dandelions.

The success and challenge lies in making connections

André Hoogendijk, director of BO Akkerbouw

The research takes place in collaboration with agricultural entrepreneurs, SMEs and large companies, public authorities and research organizations. Such as the cultivation of Dutch cotton and natural rubber from dandelion.

The analyzes of reinfann for insect-repellent ingredients show promising results. Crops have also emerged in the sidelines of the bio-based garden, which have a limited role in the bio-based economy, but which provide opportunities such as food. Think sweet potato, sorghum and gluten-free amaranth.


Not all experiments succeed, but there are certainly successes to be celebrated. This is evident from the fact that dozens of materials and products are now available for marketing.

During the network meeting Biobased Acceleration Day, which was recently held at Rusthoeve, about twenty companies presented their products, and entrepreneurs and researchers explained the possibilities with certain crops during a walk through the bio-based garden.

Nice earnings

For example, the field farmer Filip Baecke from Westdorpe grows miscanthus for the paper industry in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. By making good deals with the buyer, the farmer earns ‘a nice penny’ with it. He is also proud of the fact that the crop is sustainable, stable, widely applicable and comprehensive.

The manufacturer of sustainable toilet paper is happy about the collaboration. ‘We were short of raw materials when we came in contact with Baecke,’ says a representative. ‘Miscanthus is a fully developed local alternative to waste paper and cellulose from wood.’

Another versatile crop is hemp. ‘Everything from the plant can be used’, says Gerard Hosper from HempFlax from Oude Pekela in Groningen. ‘We use the outer short fibers for our own insulation materials. We grind the wood on the inside for animal waste. ‘

Insulating building blocks

Another major use of hemp fibers is insulating building blocks. These are, among other things, produced by IsoHemp in Belgium, which shows that houses are already being built and renovated with them. HempFlax grows its own hemp on a contract basis with farmers. ‘We offer the customer a fixed price per. ton stem. That yield can be compared to wheat cultivation ‘, according to Hosper.

Delft EcoBoard does not choose a single crop, but uses harvest surpluses to produce fiberboard. They are used in construction and as materials for furniture and doors.

Sheep wool is less known as insulation material for houses. According to Groene Bouwmaterialen from Oudheusden in North Brabant, wool in pressed form can be used in roofs, ceilings, floors, walls and window connections.

Full alternative

In short, biomaterials are a fully developed alternative. And there are plenty of products and opportunities. The question now is how the bio-based market is moving.
Opinions on this were divided during a discussion on Biobased Acceleration Day. Farmers want but do not always see an income model. The industry is willing, but bumps its head against legal regulations in the building decree. Manufacturers also want to, but say that it is not always possible to bring supply and demand together.

The pioneers of the market say: do it. On the other hand, experts argue that government incentives and guidance are needed.

According to director André Hoogendijk from BO Akkerbouw, the success and challenge lies in creating connections. ‘If we want a sustainable chain up and running, and we all want that, then all chains must stick together. That with agriculture, construction, chemistry and textiles. ‘

Biobased Innovation Garden Rusthoeve

Delphy and Rusthoeve started Biobased Innovation Garden Rusthoeve together in 2014. At the experimental farm Rusthoeve in Colijnsplaat, Zeeland, (agricultural) entrepreneurs, knowledge institutions and the business community gather to promote innovation in the cultivation and use of new, green raw materials in the processing industry. Biobased Innovation Garden was the first large Dutch demonstration field where several potential raw materials were grown side by side. More than a hundred different potential bio-based crops have been grown on Rusthoeve in recent years.

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