Intensive farming consumes lots of energy and with today’s energy prices many farmers are worried. That made energy a logical choice as one of the main themes at the Space exhibition in Rennes, France.
Farms use energy, can save on energy and can even produce energy. “Getting into energy production can be a good strategic decision,” says Jean Christophe Roubin of Credit Agricole. His bank is involved in 2 out of 3 energy projects in the agricultural sector in France.
However, there is an ongoing discussion in how to balance the possibilities in the renewable energy market and the need for food production, as brought forward by Confederation Paysanne at the expo. The farmers union emphasises livestock farming is a lever for food sovereignty and the agroecological transition, not a by-product of energy production. According to them, the involvement of large energy companies in the agri sector threatens to favour energy above food.
Heavy, unstable, unreliable. Those words can qualify energy prices today, and many farmers are concerned, especially with significant rises these past months. Marcel Denieul, the Space event president, says: “This energy crisis has enormous consequences on the farming industry. When the production costs rise, farms struggle not only with energy but also with supplies such as fertiliser and feeding.”
To face the cost increases, farmers are looking for ways to make their production more cost-efficient. Space offered a plethora of possible on-farm solutions ranging from how to lower consumption, and production, using solar panels, wind energy, methane or biomass.
Denieul warns: “Information is key for those who would want to profit from this renewable energy market while still balancing it with the needed food production. Those decisions will be strategic in a time where energy and food fight for the same parcels.”
A steady energy supply is on the radar of France’s government, too. Energy savings and production questions have led agricultural minister Marc Fesneau to visit Space as well. In talks to farmers, visitors and organisations he noted that for agriculture, the geopolitical and environmental questions are uncertain but that the agri sector has great potential in reinforcing food sovereignty and taking on current major challenges.