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The organisation of value chains within the bioeconomy

VALUE CHAINS: TECHNO-ECONOMIC AS WELL AS ORGANISATIONAL CHALLENGES

The development of new value chains within the bioeconomy usually pays a great deal of attention to technical and techno-economic aspects of innovation. Despite this attention and the economic potential of many innovations, there is often no commercial application. A possible cause is the lack of attention for the organisational part of the value chain and the interactions between the stakeholders in this chain. Based on the case 'development of a maize straw value chain in Flanders', we investigate the importance of organisational aspects in the development of new value chains.

A COMBINATION OF QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH

In this case, interviews with stakeholders were conducted, both in Flanders and in Ontario, Canada. Canada is an interesting comparison point, because a maize straw value chain is in full development there, in contrast to Flanders. The results of the interviews were included in an agent-based computer model, in which the behaviour of farmers, contractors and processors is modelled. The interactions between these actors lead to a value chain with certain characteristics that can then be analysed.

ORGANISE THE VALUE CHAIN IN THE RIGHT WAY

The study confirms the importance of organisational aspects. Among other things, we demonstrated that a cooperative structure leads to a more stable supply of maize straw to a large-scale processor. Moreover, based on our model results, we gained insight into the complexity of developing the maize straw value chain. In this way we discovered the crucial, but also very vulnerable position of the contractual field workers in this chain. Finally, the comparative study between Flanders and Ontario shows that a chain approach, and a close cooperation between the agricultural sector, industry and policy, is essential in setting up new value chains for the bioeconomy. However, large-scale processing of maize straw in Flanders in a high-grade application such as the production of cellulose sugars remains a major challenge to date.

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