Logistic excellence and sustainable farming

Logistics is first and foremost transport, i.e. lorries on roads. To what extent can it be "sustainable"? How is on-farm storage one of the main ways the VIV'AVENIR plan supports sustainable farming? Answers from Yohann Girod, Regional manager and Project manager for on-farm storage development.

Yohann Girod
Yohann
Girod
Regional manager and Project manager for on-farm storage development

Storing grain on the farm is consistent with sustainable farming

How can logistics and on-farm storage help farmers develop sustainable farming?

For VIVESCIA, sustainable farming means allowing farmers to exercise their profession in the long-term, notably by improving their income. Logistics are a way of leveraging efficiencies in an area we can impact (contrary to the climate or global commodities prices, for example). We want logistics to create value for everyone. For this, insofar as possible, we want to minimise the number of steps between the field and the factory, which imply costly transhipment. We do this, for example, by reducing the number of intermediate storage phases and transfers between silos, which require the grain to be loaded and unloaded several times. These manipulations do not create value for the farmer. And they can be avoided thanks to on-farm storage, which has both economic and environmental benefits.

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What is inter-silo transport? Aren't all silo the same?

Of course not! There are "collection silos": where the grain is shipped to immediately after being harvested. That's where farmers deliver their crops. And as all farmers tend to harvest at the same time, there are often long queues at the silo when the grain is delivered, and sometimes bottlenecks when the silo is full. Then we need to take the grain elsewhere, to a "distribution silo". This is a silo designed to store homogenous batches (the same type and quality of grain) that meet the needs customers in terms of its specific use (breadmaking, pastries, brewing, savoury snacks, etc.). From there, the grain is then loaded onto lorries, trains, barges, or cargo ships, and sent to the end buyer.

You mentioned economic benefits for the farmer. Could you elaborate?

First of all, developing on-farm storage saves farmers time: they deliver straight to the distribution silo and avoid the queues at the collection silo. This gives them greater flexibility in managing their harvest, fewer trips to the silo, and total autonomy to harvest 24h/day 7 days/week if they want. It also boosts their income, since VIVESCIA is incentivising on-farm storage with bonuses that vary depending on the duration of storage. Moreover, farmers can better allocate their harvest, and therefore get a better total price for it.

On-farm storage requires specific adaptations. It has a cost. Can all farmers afford it?

On-farm storage is first and foremost an investment. An investment that VIVESCIA supports through storage bonuses. And it's a modular investment: the storage building and equipment are designed based on each farmer's crops and plans. This investment can be an opportunity to add value to an old building, to modernise the farm, and to make it more efficient. Some farmers also choose to install solar panels in order to help improve the return on investment. Ultimately, this investment adds value to the farm itself, whether the farmer wants to continue to operate it, or to pass on to their children, or to sell it. In summary, like any other investment it demands a return on investment. And this can be calculated.

You can't just play it by ear. How do you help farmers who want to embark on this type of project?

In a silo, we look after the grain: we ventilate it, we monitor its temperature, we ensure its quality does not deteriorate. The same must be true for on-farm storage. That's why our advisers work alongside farmers when they need it at every stage: Evaluation and definition of requirements, type of storage (bin or flat storage), choice of lighting, ventilation and temperature management system to monitor the grain's temperature precisely, and course, raising awareness of good storage practices. For example, you need to choose lighting with protective casings to avoid getting pieces of glass in the event of breakage, to know how to gradually lower the temperature in stages, sampling, cleaning between seasons, etc. But farmers know their grain well. They know how to look after it!

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Farmers are best placed to talk about on-from storage!

More autonomy, more flexibility, and I get a better price for my grain!

My family has always done on-farm storage, so I was sold on the idea. When I took over the farm three years ago, I decided to continue this policy. It involved the construction of a new, more operational building with one part devoted to storage. But it also contains a workshop, storage for plant health products, an equipment room, and my office.

VIVESCIA's advisers helped me design the building, and everything around it, like a filling and cleaning area for plant health products. They ensured compliance with all health and safety standards. We also chose the ventilation system together, to ensure that it is both easy to access and use, even when I am not on site. Which is often, since I live 60 km away from the farm.

And then there is all the monitoring. It is very important! The VIVESCIA team stopped by again last week to check the new ventilation system and ensure its configuration was suited to my requirements. We had a chat and I think that I'm going to follow their advice again and automate ventilation so that I can operate it remotely. Even if it is very easy to start, it bothers me to ask my father or my cousin to do it when I'm not there.

Jeremy
Jeremy, farmer in the Marne department

On-farm grain storage :

It saves time!

Our farm is located outside the village and there are no neighbours nearby. We used to store grain in the buildings on the farm. We stopped doing that seven years ago. It was too time-consuming and the buildings were no longer suited to the task. The new building, designed to be much more functional and better suited to modern farming, will save us time during the harvest. Not having to go to the silo for deliveries will save us time and eliminate road traffic risk.

With the solar panels and the storage bonuses paid by VIVESCIA, it will be profitable in the long-term. The total surface area of the new building we decided to build will be 1,200 m². It will have six 6 m-wide and 18 m-long storage bays. The remaining space will be used to store equipment and free up space inside the farm. We also decided to install solar panels on the roof to help pay back the investment. The purchase price of electricity generated is not as attractive as it was a few years ago but with VIVESCIA's long-term storage bonuses, we will get a return on investment within 20 years. We might even consider a storage partnership with neighbouring farmers.

It also adds value to the farm! It's an additional opportunity – on top of the works we have already carried out – to add value to the farm and it reflects our deep commitment to more environmentally friendly modern farming.

Cédric
Cédric, Husbandry officer in the Marne department

For me, there are clear economic and practical advantages!

I am part of a group of five farmers who have pooled some of their farming equipment. Three of us have chosen on-farm storage. I harvest the grain with a large combine harvester we bought together, and I can store it easily and whenever I want. When the hangar is empty, I can store part of my farming equipment there and free up space in the other hangars.

We are pursuing improvements

I built the building in 2016. I installed solar panels on the roof, like I did on my hen house. And VIVESCIA's bonuses help to ensure a return on investment. With the cooperative's advisers we are now thinking about installing a weighbridge to be able to weigh the grain and deliver directly to customers. I will still continue to go to the silo though. It's a nice place where you can meet and chat to colleagues. There are also technical meetings there. I come from three generations of cooperative farmers. Our grandparents created a wonderful organisation with VIVESCIA. I'm very attached to it. But that doesn't mean we can't improve it!

Frédéric
Frédéric, livestock farmer in the Marne department

I took the leap earlier than expected and I'm very happy about it!  

I took over my mother's farm two years ago. I always intended to store my crops on the farm. It really makes things easier during the harvest. I can unload the grain when I get back from the field, at any time of day, and head straight back out to continue harvesting if the weather allows it. That's invaluable, because often you don't have much time! The time you spend going to the silo and back is time lost! And the opening hours often don't fit in with my work day. With this solution, I spend less time travelling and it's always open. It's far more flexible!

I wanted to wait a while before investing

As I was just starting out, I had to make quite a few investments. The VIVESCIA technician really helped me with this project. I had a former livestock building on the farm that had been out of service since we stopped breeding cows a few years ago. We thought together about how to renovate it, where to put the troughs, the ventilation system, etc. I wanted it to be convenient and easy to use. And not too expensive!

VIVESCIA's technical sales rep helped me find the right solutions. For example, they encouraged me to install ventilation ducts in the ground, which are less fragile, more efficient, and more sustainable. The motor is at the front and easy to get to: I just have to press the button and off it goes! This setup will last several decades. And when I talked to my bank about the investment the had no hesitation in lending me the money!


Arnaud, farmer in the Ardennes department