NWO-KNAW research programme Agriculture Beyond Food

Research results

One of the main conclusions in the book Agriculture Beyond Food: experiences from Indonesia is that Jatropha does not seem to live up to its promise. Amongst others, this is caused by disappointing yields and counterproductive incentives from the Government, such as fossil fuel subsidies.

Besides, Jathropa is a relatively young crop. To fully benefit from Jathropa, it must be genetically developed. This makes Jatropha riskier than for instance oil palm.

The cultivation of palm oil is more lucrative, both for large entrepreneurs as for local farmers. This is partly because palm oil can be sold both on food-market and on the non-food market. So palm oil producers can sell their products on the market that generates the highest yields. The negative impact on the environment, such as peat bogs and forests and on the production of rice, is substantial however. It is best when oil palm is grown on marginal land, which would not be used for agricultural purposes anyway. However, such land is also not always as marginal, for example because it has a function as flood buffer or for local use such as gathering food, firewood and fodder. For that reason the focus in future research should be on the optimisation instead of the maximization of yields.

Agriculture Beyond Food also focuses on mobile technologies to locally produce biodiesel. Research has shown that these kind of innovations have a lot impact on the lives of local farmers and therefore should be developed in a process of co-creation. An example is the use of ethanol from locally fermented biomass, instead of the generally used methanol. A second scientific breakthrough is the use of the remaining residue for biodiesel synthesis and as cattle feed, that increases the economic benefit for the local population.