Together with other partners, Colruyt Group is pioneering in growing organic soya in Belgium
Colruyt Group is pioneering locally grown organic soya together with Simon Colembie, farmer in Kruishoutem, and Bruges producer La Vie Est Belle. The partners are supported by the research institutes ILVO and Inagro, who are investigating the potential of growing soya in Belgium. The future is looking bright so far. Colembie's first harvest of one hectare of organic soya produced no less than 2.5 tons of soya beans. The soya is used by La Vie Est Belle to produce two soya burgers and two soya spreads. These will be on the shelves at Bio-Planet, the organic supermarket of Colruyt Group in the first half of next year.
Three local players
From field to supermarket - farmer Colembie's organic soya doesn't need to travel far. After being harvested in Kruishoutem, more than 2.5 tons of soya beans are transported to La Vie Est Belle, a producer of vegetarian products in Bruges. They will use the beans to produce two different soya burgers and two soya spreads. La Vie Est Belle has been a supplier of Bio-Planet for many years. The 4 new products will therefore be on the shelves of the Colruyt Group's organic supermarket by next year.
“At Colruyt Group, we are continuously working on making our products more sustainable in the areas of health, environment, animal welfare and society”, says Stefan Goethaert, Director of the Colruyt Group Fine Food. “For example, over the past 4 years we have been part of a research project looking into the sustainability of soya, whereby the feasibility of growing local, Belgian soya was key. We are therefore enormously pleased that soya is currently successfully grown in Belgium, and we are proud that we have been able to contribute to this. It is our ambition to market 4 products containing Belgian soya next year, so that our customers can try this sustainable and local source of nutrition.”
Challenges of growing soya in Belgium
Farmer Simon Colembie, La Vie Est Belle and Colruyt Group have full confidence in the work they do together on this innovative project Because soya has so far mainly been an imported product, this group can count on the support of the research institutes ILVO (Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research) and INAGRO (Research and Advice in Agriculture and Horticulture). They have been investigating whether growing soya in Belgium has potential for some years now.
According to Johan Van Waes, scientific director at ILVO, there is definitely potential: “Belgian soya is still a learning process. We are still investigating and discovering what works. What soya varieties will grow best over here? When should we be planting? When should we be harvesting? That is why we have planted 1 hectare with 2 different soya varieties. We want to investigate the effects of the different previous crops and soil treatments on the soya yield. We learn a lot from this, of course, and we are happy to share this knowledge with (future) soya farmers.”
Inagro also closely follows Belgian soya production. “The soy plants have done particularly well during the past warm, dry summer. In our opinion, this certainly opens up future prospects”, says Bram Vervisch, researcher soya cultivation at Inagro.
More sustainable, local product
Besides soya, organic farmer Simon Colembie also grows wheat, spelt, potatoes, green beans, grain maize, grass-clover and fodder beets. “I didn't need any persuading to take on Belgian soya, as this means I now have an extra crop that I can use to rotate my fields. This doesn't only benefit my income, but also the soil quality.” Agricultural land often suffers from soil impoverishment because the same crops are always grown on it. Soy extracts nitrogen from the air and therefore enriches the soil and as a result, farmers can use less fertiliser.
Another advantage of a Belgian, locally grown crop is that there will be less need for soya from North and South America. This means less transportation and therefore a more sustainable product. This is a decisive argument for food producer La Vie Est Belle: “Despite our extensive veggie range, we consciously decided not to have any soya products. Our preference is for local products, which wasn't possible until now for soya. We are currently working with Bio-Planet to find the best way of making the most of the soya beans.”
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Colruyt Group operates in the food and non-food distribution sector in Belgium, France and Luxembourg with approximately 550 own stores and over 580 affiliated stores. In Belgium this includes Colruyt, OKay, Bio-Planet, Cru, Dreamland, Dreambaby and the affiliated stores Spar and Spar Compact. In France, in addition to Colruyt stores, there are also affiliated Coccinelle, CocciMarket and Panier Sympa stores. The group is also actively involved in the foodservice business (supply of food products to hospitals, company canteens and catering businesses) in Belgium (Solucious). The other activities comprise the sale of fuel in Belgium (DATS 24), printing and document management solutions (Symeta) and the production of green energy. The group employs over 29.300 employees and recorded a EUR 9,0 billion revenue in 2017/18. Colruyt is listed on NYSE Euronext Brussels (COLR) under ISIN code BE0974256852.