dThe united project partners will work for the next 2 years to develop an ecologically and economically sustainable protein chain in Leuven. Boerenbond consultant Nele Lauwers explains the concept behind the initiative: “The chain is set up based on a hands-on mentality. The challenge lies primarily in building a processing chain between the product that comes from the field and the food product that eventually ends up with the consumer. Because there is no such chain for smaller quantities from local farmers, we want to shape it with this project. That is why we are looking for processors who want to realize such a chain together.”
“Together with farmers from the region, knowledge is gained about growing protein-rich crops such as horse beans, yellow peas and lupins, sown as mixed crops with oats. Then we look at specific processing options,” adds Elien De Rooze from ILVO. “Via a two-day makeathon, interdisciplinary student teams are challenged to develop new recipes based on protein-rich crops,” adds colleague Nathalie Bernaert. “Once it is clear what the range offers, the manufactured products are marketed, and the demand for them is also mapped. In this way, local traders, farmers, processors and consumers are ultimately united in a new value chain that contributes to making our food more sustainable.”
Support for merchants and cooperatives
Sara Vander Auwera, manager of the packaging-free store Content, confirms that this approach gives her new opportunities as a trader. “Oatmeal is, among other things, very popular with our audience. We would therefore like to get the oats from local producers, but unfortunately have not found any farmers nearby who can produce them for us. We want to see this change thanks to this project!”.
Michael Moulaert, coordinator of short chain cooperative Leuven in short, nods in agreement. “There is already interest in the market and among our customers, so we would definitely like to be part of that with the farmers in our cooperative. After all, it is not only about producing and selling, but also about connecting manufacturer and retailer and bringing our products to market together. We want to be the local link between production and consumption.”
Farmers bring diversity to food, field and revenue model
By joining together, the project partners thus ensure innovation in different domains and are an example for other regions. By offering a partnership and active chain, the bridge for farmers to grow these crops is reduced, which also contributes positively to the monitoring of biodiversity in the field. “As a food producer, we naturally find it important that what we bring to the market contributes to eco-themes such as biodiversity and clean water, but in the end there should also be bread on the table for us,” says farmer Dries Janssens. “Thanks to this project, we can confidently experiment with alternative crops and see if they can provide diversity in our products and in our own income. In this way, we are one step closer to a win-win situation that has a positive effect on both the farmer and the climate.”
More information about the project ‘A bean for Leuven’: https://www.boerenbond.be/projecten/Een-boon-voor-Leuven.