Tech and Bio Show

Organic industry in pursuit of a model

In September, a regional delegation travelled to mainland France for the Tech&Bio Show, the largest international alternative and organic farming method fair, and an opportunity for farmers and technicians to learn about the latest innovations and reproducible models as well as visit leading-edge farms and forge partnerships. The trip was part of a regional cooperation drive to develop organic agriculture through the EU INTEGRE project and a feedback session on it was held on 17 November.

A demonstration 

The Pacific Community (SPC) conference room went green on 17 November.

Organic farming was once again in the limelight a year after the National Chambers of Agriculture Network Organic Farming’s Development Officer, Jacques Pior, gave a talk there. This time around, the New Caledonian delegation enthusiastically shared a bumper crop of innovations and information garnered from the walkways of the September Tech&Bio Show, a flagship event held every two years in the Drome region .

“The show was like Christmas for us. All the answers to our questions about organic farming were provided on the spot,” said Pierre Lecoeuvre, a Biocaledonia technical adviser.

A slew of organic-farming professionals in the conference-centre audience – including famers, government and association technical agents (provincial, territorial and central government, Biocaledonia, GAB and Repair, etc.), and the scientific and academic communities (IAC, ADECAL, university and agricultural high schools) – listened in rapt attention as the Chamber of Agriculture’s Regional Cooperation Policy Officer, François Japiot, reported that “in addition to the two show days, we visited farms, discussed methods and economic models with farmers and researchers, and forged partnerships for future projects. We returned laden with ideas and contacts to give a boost to this industry, which is meeting a genuine local and regional need.”

In addition to François Japiot and Pierre Lecoeuvre, the New Caledonia delegation was made up of the Chamber of Agriculture’s Technical Manager, Clément Gandet; an organic farmer from Paita, Marion Pelcerf; and an organic farmer from La Foa, Franck Soury-Lavergne.

“The trip was part of broader regional cooperation efforts to develop organic farming in the region’s four OCTs that we have been supporting both financially and logistically for the past three years,” said INTEGRE Coordinator Peggy Roudault.

It was co-funded by EU INTEGRE, the Chamber of Agriculture of France, Chamber of Agriculture of New Caledonia, Ministry of Agriculture of French Polynesia and Bio Caledonia.

Logo Bio-Pasifica
Bio-Pasifika, New Caledonia’s official organic seal

A well-organised industry

The first thing the delegation noticed was that organic farming was expanding rapidly in mainland France, accounting for 13% of farms and 19% of UAL (useable agricultural land) in the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur region and netting the best returns in agriculture. This could be partly explained by very well-organised technical and financial conversion assistance, which includes tailor-made training and follow-up. Another success factor lies in the neatly dovetailed specialised technical organisations, in which farmers are well represented and decide on the programmes to be implemented. The delegation met with the Organic Farming Research Group (GRAB) and visited the Etoile experimental farm overseen by the Drome Chamber of Agriculture and the Rhone-Alps Vegetable Information Experimental Station (SERAIL).

On the organic farms they visited, both our farmers encountered “a wide variety of economic models ranging from one-person farms to major operations employing 30 seasonal labourers,” as Franck Soury-Lavergne put it. He was struck by “the enthusiasm, with farmers drawn towards organics, driven by a clear long-term vision.” Marion Pelcerf was pleased to note that “organic farmers [are] considered real farmers.” What stood out most for Pierre Lecoeuvre was that there was “no segregation and all the models could co-exist”. Marion Pelcerf was also amazed to see “so many methods developed” and so much direct selling.

Clément Gandet also looked into non-chemical plant protection methods such as the one offered by a company marketing an organic-compatible maize-storage insecticide in Australia and New Zealand, showing that SMEs can develop very practical solutions. A meeting with the seed manufacturers’ inter-branch group (GNIS) was also highly informative. So this trip was very instructive and, in François Japiot’s words, “a gateway to the future.”

Organic farming in 2016

97 certified farmers
approximately 200 tonnes of produce, including vegetables, root crops, fruit, honey and vanilla

FROM INTEGRE TO EDF-11

The INTEGRE (Pacific Territories Initiative for Regional Management of the Environment) project, funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF-10) to the tune of XPF 1 billion, includes an organic farming component that the New Caledonian Chamber of Agriculture was tasked with coordinating. Activities were implemented over three years with XPF 100 million funding leading to an pilot organic farm network, including the Do Neva Agricultural High School farm in Houailou, and helping promote environmentally-sound methods in all four OCTs, i.e. French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis & Futuna and Pitcairn. INTEGRE Coordinator Peggy Roudault said EDF-11 would “provide XPF 4.2 billion (EUR 36 million), a large share of which will be allocated to the organic-farming transition.” To achieve this objective, partnerships have been envisaged with: an engineering school to assess the stage of organic-farming transition that each territory has reached, the Agence Bio (Organic Agency) to set up a monitoring body, GNIS (seed manufacturers’ inter-branch group) for the regulatory aspects, APCA to assist farmers transition to agro-ecology and organic farming, and INAO for governing and managing the Pacific organic certification standards (organic agriculture label).

DEFINITION

Organic farming is a production method based on cropping and livestock techniques that are mindful of natural equilibriums and comply with specifications that rule out the use of synthetic chemicals and GMOs and restrict the use of inputs.

Photo:
SPC, Noumea, 17 November, left to right: Yolaine Bouteiller, Pierre Lecœuvre, Clément Gandet, Peggy Roudault, Franck Soury-Lavergne and François Japiot.

Article as published in the LA CALÉDONIE AGRICOLE