The Colruyt family, owner of Belgium's leading supermarket chain, is taking a stake in Protealis, a start-up that tries to make soy cultivation profitable in several European countries (including Belgium). After all, the demand for local and sustainably cultivated soy is increasing rapidly.
At present, the bulk of soy comes from the Americas because cultivation in large parts of Europe is hardly profitable. Protealis is working on the development of new soy varieties that are more resistant to cold weather and can still produce enough beans. The start-up reported earlier that it had developed varieties that can yield 3 to 3.5 tonnes per hectare in our regions. "At that point, it becomes interesting for many farmers to switch and sow soy instead of wheat, rapeseed or grain maize", CEO Benjamin Laga recently said.
Colruyt (through investment vehicle Korys) investing in the project does not come as a surprise: the retailer is continuously working on making its products more sustainable and notices an increasing demand for organic, meat substitutes and local protein sources. Three years ago, the company already took the lead in a pioneering project on locally cultivated soy: farmer Simon Colembie sowed one hectare of soy, which yielded 2.5 tonnes of organic soy. The Bruges-based producer of vegetarian products La vie est belle processed the soy into soy burgers that Bio-Planet subsequently sold under the Boni Selection Bio brand.
As yet, Belgium's contribution to global soy production is negligible. Last year, 150 tonnes of soybeans were grown on 70 hectares, Belgian newspaper De Tijd writes. Protealis believes that 8 % of the entire Belgian agricultural area is suitable for growing soy profitably thanks to the new varieties: that would be more than 100,000 hectares.