Creating value from stony ground

16 October 2017

An EU industry-funded project uses marginal land and hardy native plants to produce valuable chemicals for the possible manufacture of a range of products including cosmetics and bioplastics. The goal is to harness the potential of local areas and build a sustainable, profitable and job-creating value chain.

The rocky hillsides typical of the Mediterranean are difficult to cultivate, which is one of the main reasons why this water-poor and stony land is left unused.

However, for the EU industry-funded First2Run project, this marginal land presents both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to grow crops that can produce valuable products, such as oils and biomass, without competing with normal cropland used for food. The challenge is to bring a whole supply chain together – from farmers to biochemical processing and satisfied end users – and show this can be environmentally and commercially sustainable.

“We are taking low-input underutilised oil crops that grow easily in arid marginal lands from which we extract bio-monomers,” says First2Run project coordinator Cecilia Giardi of the Italian company Novamont.

“These are the starting point for a range of bioproducts such as biolubricants, cosmetics and bioplastics. The technologies for this have already been developed and validated by our R&D – our goal is to build a complete value chain, which is environmentally sustainable and commercially profitable at an industrial scale.”