‘Our collaboration contributes to a circular economy’

1 August 2019

Nick Major visiting chain partner Alpro

Nick Major – Corporate Affairs Director and responsible for sustainability within ForFarmers – is entering into discussions with people both inside and outside of ForFarmers who are involved with sustainability in their jobs and who therefore give substance to ForFarmers as a sustainable company. This time he is talking to Chris Vandenbroucke from chain partner Alpro. Chris is the Production Manager at the Alpro location in Belgium and is also responsible for the co-products which our drivers deliver straight to our customers from the Alpro factory.

Nick: “As consumers we are familiar with Alpro as a result of the drinks from the supermarket and in catering establishments. All vegetable-based products. How should I see the collaboration between Alpro and ForFarmers, armed with this knowledge?” 

Chris: “Most people are indeed familiar with Alpro as a result of the drinks, but we also have vegetable-based alternatives for yoghurt and vegetable butter and dessert alternatives. Most of these are based on soy, but we also have products based on rice, oats, coconut, etc. We sell residual flows from our production - the so-called liquid and dry co-products - as animal feed via ForFarmers.” 

Nick: “ForFarmers supplies these as DML products, which stands for dry-moist-liquid. We differentiate between simple feeds - raw materials like grain and soy - and co- or by-products resulting from processing, such as soy shells, as well as liquid and stackable co-products from the food industry.”

Chris: “And Alpro forms part of this process for both the dry and liquid co-products. The residual flows released during the processing of soy into consumer products are rich in proteins and are turned into valuable animal feed.”

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Production in Wevelgem continues day and night.
Production in Wevelgem continues day and night.

We want to keep our footprint as small as possible

Nick: “Can you explain that?”

Chris: “Alpro only processes non-GMO - non-genetically modified - soy at all its locations. The production of soy drinks starts with peeling the soy bean. The shells and cracks (small pieces of soy bean) form dry by-products, which together amount to approximately 3,200 tons per year. The peeled soy beans are mixed with water in the next step and a type of soy milk is created. The paste-like substance which remains - the soy paste - is ultimately suitable as liquid feed for pigs. We store this co-product, around 60,000 tons per year, at Alpro in tanks. ForFarmers subsequently delivers this straight to the farm.” 

Nick: “What kind of farmer is this for?”

Chris: “There are many pig farms in our factory’s surrounding area. We think it is important to supply the regional farmers, as we want to keep our footprint, and that of transport, as small as possible.  Local supply and demand come together beautifully, as ForFarmers has many customers in this area. However, the number of pig farmers who use liquid feed is quite limited.”

Nick: “Can this type of feed be used in other sectors too?”

Chris: “Yes, that is possible, which is why we are indeed looking beyond this sector. There are a multitude of dairy farms and goat companies in this area. Our product is also suitable for these types of animals, even though the farmers do need to have storage tanks and a feed mixer to be able to use it. We have noted an increasing number of farming companies are now investing in this and we are therefore working together with ForFarmers to continue marketing the DML products in this area.” 

We are contributing to a circular economy

Nick: “And how does all of this fit in with your sustainability vision?”

Chris: “The soy paste - which we cannot process in a product - is also very suitable as an animal feed from a nutritional point of view. The cattle from the immediate vicinity of our factory therefore receive sustainably produced, 100% naturally processed, non-GMO feed with a small footprint. This application, which is a residual product to us, is a good example of a ‘circular effect’ and therefore fits in well with our sustainability goals.” 

Nick: ”Processing residual flows from the food industry is one of ForFarmers’ sustainability pillars. We don’t regard these flows as waste, but as a top quality source of protein. Simple raw materials like soy meal, soy shells and grain are also very suitable as animal feed. These aren’t extras for the animals, they actually replace another type of animal feed that would otherwise have to be produced separately. We contribute to a circular economy by using the residual flows from the food industry.” 

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The Alpro site in Wevelgem, Belgium.
The Alpro site in Wevelgem, Belgium.

A nice example of a win-win situation

Chris: “Does ForFarmers actually make use of other residual flows from the food industry?”

Nick: “We work together with different parties from the food industry, in order to make maximum use of raw materials which are already being processed for human consumption. This includes the dairy industry, from which we purchase whey, a by-product of cheese production. We use this as pig feed. But it also includes residual products which are created during the processing of arable products like potatoes, wheat and beetroot. Using these residual flows means we don’t need to ‘compete’ with raw materials which would otherwise be consumed by people. This means fewer raw materials are used in total.” 

Chris: “The collaboration between ForFarmers and Alpro is a good example of how the vegetable-based food industry and the animal feed industry - as part of the chain which produces animal proteins - can complement each other. This collaboration therefore makes optimal use of raw materials. A nice example of a win-win situation.” 

Nick: “Our collaboration is a good example of a circular approach, which is becoming increasingly more important in the agricultural sector.” 

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About Alpro

Production in Wevelgem continues day and night

Alpro forms part of Danone, which has the following vision: Danone; One planet - One health. It’s Alpro’s mission to improve the way in which the world feeds itself. This is why Alpro is creating vegetable-based food which contributes to everyone’s well-being and which is produced with respect for our planet. Alpro wants to use this supply of vegetable-based products to encourage people to try a new way of eating. 

Find out more about Alpro as a friend of the planet.