In Normandy, the “green” biomass business is emerging

Wheat husk can be biofuel. Grapes must be transformed into a cosmetic product. Hemp is used as a building material. These biomasses are popular. They attract investors from the bioeconomy. The principle: to produce energy from these organic materials, of plant, animal, bacterial or fungal origin.

On Wednesday May 11 and Thursday May 12, 2022, 150 people represented approximately 80 companies-including some Norman behemoths such as Natup or Dielen-for the sector’s general meeting, in Cherbourg (Manche). Behind the initiative, a recent partnership between the Region and the Bioeconomy for Change network (known as “B4C”, 500 member groups including Nestlé, Total, LVMH, Yves Rocher) around the biomass sectors.

Look for economic opportunities

Among those present, the Nantes organization Via Végétale, which notably produces active ingredients for the Normandy cooperative Agrial (12,000 member farmers). “Usually, algae have an interest in agriculture, it describes its research and development manager, Victor Maignan. But the hurdle, in Normandy, is to find outlets that are economically profitable for everyone. To be applied alone to plots, they are very poorly sold. If we improve them by concentrating some active ingredients, for example to combat stress in water, we will bring additional value. »

Algae is also used in the composition of cosmetics from Gilbert’s laboratory, located in Hérouville-Saint-Clair (Calvados), near Caen, since 1904, 230 million euros in turnover. Seawater is used in its cold sprays. For us, the challenges are how to ensure the stability of our formulas, and their reproduction ”, explanation by Sylvie Chopin, director of innovation and development.

A matter of sovereignty

B4C, which lobbies in Brussels, praises the health and ecological properties of these materials. Without forgetting the commercial interest of these new products. Consumption of vegetable proteins has also jumped 50% in two years in France. “There is a business, a strong vector of growth”, presented the communications officer. “It also responds to an issue of sovereignty, as we see in the Covid crises and the war in Ukraine, which is causing the explosion of cereal prices”, poses Boris Dumange, Managing Director.

The smaller actors also traveled with the giants. The Cherbourg-en-Cotentin aquaponic farm (the only one in the Manche department) uses rainbow trout biomass to produce vegetables that are sold on short circuits. “ I can’t really find myself there … launched its manager, Laurent Queffelec, who was skeptical. We are very frugal, we only produce 2 to 3 kg of waste per week. On the other hand, larger or very specialized companies may find these meetings useful to lower their environmental costs. But let’s not be fooled, one of the goals of this partnership is to generate growth and exports. »

Is Normandy about to become the leader of Europe?

The region hopes “to be Europe’s leader in bioeconomy”, said Clotilde Eudier, Vice President in charge of Agriculture and Fisheries. The community wants to create links between companies in these sectors. It remains to define the means and direction of its ambitions.

In Normandy, the “green” biomass business is emerging

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