Meet Belgium’s first chickpea farmer


Warm temperatures have collateral beneficial effects on Belgian farms as Europe experiences worst heatwave on record Peas and Beanswhere chickpeas – a Mediterranean climate crop – grows.

This pulse is not adapted to cold and wet weather, but the trend towards sunny days is boosting crops that were previously unharvestable in northern or central Europe. Thomas Truyen, a hobby farmer and mostly a marketer in the seed industry, planted chickpeas on an acre of his family farm in 2020: drier summers,” he said.

Setting the right climate price

According to a recent report Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Plant Based Yes The investment with the greatest impact on reducing carbon emissions in any industry, as it has the highest CO2-equivalent savings per dollar of invested capital of any industry.In Belgium, such as Greenway, de hobbitsand good life The way is being paved for new plant-based products based on pulses, such as soybeans, chickpeas or other pulses and pulses. However, if the environmental footprint of plant-based foods should be kept low, then an increase in the country’s production of raw materials should also be envisaged.

At the Flemish regional level, initiatives are being undertaken to accelerate the transition to plant-based foods. In 2021, the Flemish Minister of Agriculture and Food, Hilde Crevits, launched a regional 2030 Protein Strategy The aim is to diversify crops by increasing the production of more plant-based and alternative proteins on Flemish lands.plan seek And to encourage innovation in agriculture: Lupins, lentils and chickpeas are not yet grown on a large scale, but research is underway to understand which plants might thrive in a Flemish climate. Truyen’s farm is involved in two of the 19 items Funded by the government, farmers, scientists, processing companies and supermarkets joined forces to investigate the potential of local chickpea consumption and how to optimize chickpea cultivation.

In a few weeks, Truyen will be harvesting his organic chickpeas for the third year in a row. His harvest will help further investigate the possibility of expanding production across the country: “What we want to achieve is to establish data on average yields,” Truyen said, “and then in the long run it will be possible to work out what costs are involved. Among other things, this is the right price for Belgian chickpeas, allowing other farmers to consider whether it is suitable for them to grow this crop.”

Ultra-sustainable but still risky

Sowing and harvesting of chickpeas takes place between March and September, when temperatures can be slightly closer to those in the Mediterranean region. However, the chickpea varieties used are the same chickpea varieties currently used by some farms in France, which are better able to cope with colder and milder weather.

Truyen dedicates an acre of land to growing chickpeas, and on his farm he grows crops such as potatoes and wheat, which he now rotates with chickpeas. However, one of the crop’s secrets is its extraordinary ability to slow climate change. The peculiarity of this plant is that it can grow in very poor soil while limiting nitrogen emissions to the air, a by-product specific to certain agricultural activities. In fact, the pulse feeds on the emitted nitrogen particles, contributing to the reduction of this gas in the atmosphere.

Nitrogen is a substance that can also be found in fertilizers, and farmers don’t need to use it because plants can absorb it through the air, reducing purchase costs Farmer budget expenditure.

Additionally, his organic farms employ nature-friendly farming techniques, such as avoiding pesticides, which are bringing pollinators back to his land. Although he needs to pull out the weeds that grow alongside the chickpea plants himself, he prefers it this way.A recent study established These practices do not reduce crop productivity while promoting a positive impact on the environment.

In the first year of 2020, pea and bean farms collected 3 tons of this bean, showing the crop’s promise in the country. In 2021, however, the torrential rains that caused catastrophic flooding in Europe also damaged his land, making it impossible to harvest anything over 1kg: “Climate change doesn’t just mean higher temperatures, especially extreme weather events,” he said. Sadly said. Currently he doubts that many other farmers will follow in his footsteps: “It’s risky to change crops overnight, it’s a good thing they don’t blindly go into the business, in agriculture everything is an experiment, you need at least Waiting 10 years to make predictions,” he said, hoping that with the third harvest, he could further build the data collection in a positive direction.

Formation of supply chain

One of the scope of projects Peas & Beans is involved in is closing the gap between farmers and consumers. Belgian cuisine rarely contains beans in the ingredients, and its population is not accustomed to adding beans to meals. Truyen said he “still has some work to do” in order to sell his first crop, as there is no supply chain for chickpeas yet. But since his main job was in marketing, he didn’t take that long to build his chain: “At some point, I dreamed of starting my own chain, so I needed a very popular crop, and the eagle Peas seemed like the perfect product,” he continued, as the popularity of plant-based alternatives has been growing, especially among younger generations.Today, he mainly serves Middle Eastern restaurants in Brussels Pois Chicheand world famous vegetarian restaurant Humus and Daylily, Peas & Beans also supplies bulk grocery stores. Now, together with his project partners, he is trying to create a supply chain for this new Belgian potential product: “For example, in the future we will need factories that can clean chickpeas after they are harvested,” he points out.



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