Interóleo Group and Balam Agriculture lay the foundations for a sustainable olive future

The INTERÓLEO Group and BALAM Agriculture, with the invaluable collaboration of Santander Agro, have held a technical conference at Ifeja in which they have laid the foundations for a more than promising olive-growing future. A future that, inevitably, must go through the triple sustainability, social, environmental and economic, by the modernization and modernization of farms and to explore new income through a way of business with a lot of future as is the sale of carbon credits.

This was made clear by the president of the Interóleo Group, Juan Gadeo, at the round table. "A working day with which we wanted to put on the table the enormous possibilities that are open to the olive sector with the sale of carbon credits. CO2 sequestration in olive groves has an important economic value and to be able to exercise the rights of sale requires a series of advice and monitoring that large farms can carry out due to their size. For this reason, one of the parts of the agreement with Balam Agriculture is to put its professionals at the service of our farmers so that they can take advantage of this market niche", stated Juan Gadeo. In this sense, the president of Grupo Interóleo recalled that, until now, this line of business has not been available to small farms, something that "we want to remedy thanks to the agreement with Balam" in order to increase the profitability of farms in the province.

The director of Balam Agriculture's Crops Department, Pedro Navarro, stressed the importance of professionalisation, reinforced by the agreement with Grupo Interóleo. "We want to cover all the small farmers who, due to economies of scale, cannot afford to have a technician and important advice for the future. At the conference we talked about the digital field notebook, the importance of active ingredients and how crops are becoming more and more technical. We also stressed that thanks to this agreement, they will be able to count on a field advisor to accompany them throughout the process of technification", he explained. He also made it clear that the collaboration between Grupo Interóleo and Balam Agriculture goes much further, because "the modernisation and technification of crops in Jaén is necessary to be able to compete with the large farms that are appearing. That is why, thanks to the coverage under the Interóleo umbrella, we can propose viable and efficient transformation projects", he affirmed.

Meanwhile, José Antonio Lara, territorial head of Agro Andalucía for the Santander Group, pointed out the bank's concern for the sector, which is why its measures are aimed at showing proximity in the more than 500 points of sale in Andalusia, adapting to all the needs of olive growers. "We undertake all their improvements in the field and we are together with Interóleo and Balam in this carbon footprint project. The bank has a zero footprint commitment to comply with the Paris Pact and externally we provide green finance with loans that improve the sustainability of agriculture to ensure the production of the highest quality food. In addition, we have set up a €500 million fund to provide capital for viable projects that come to us," he said.

Juan Carlos Cañasveras, development director of Balam Agriculture, presented the new olive variety Sultana to the farmers from Jaén, which has been the first commercial milestone in the line of collaboration between the University of Cordoba and Balam for the genetic improvement of high-density olive varieties. In Sultana, he explained, "we have seen characteristics that have stood out from the more than 1,400 genotypes that have gone through the different phases of evaluation. This variety has 10 characteristics that place it in an outstanding position with respect to any existing variety to date: higher productivity, early ripening, long-lasting veraison without dropping, long harvesting period, high fat yield, larger fruit, reduced vigour, lower pruning costs, it is resistant to cold and it also has an excellent oil", Cañasveras pointed out.

Finally, José Luis Vaca presented Cultiva Carbono, a pioneering programme developed by Balam Agriculture to bring farmers closer to voluntary carbon markets by generating high-value carbon credits (and the only one currently available for woody crops) that have all the necessary guarantees for their commercialisation. The programme develops projects that bring together farmers who commit to incorporate and maintain new practices on their farms to reduce emissions or increase carbon sequestration. "In January 2023, the first carbon sequestration and emission reduction project of the Cultivate Carbon Programme was registered. This project, carried out at Finca El Valenciano, in Carmona (Seville), has absorbed more than 3,000 tonnes of CO2eq in the last 5 years and is expected to remove a total of 10,500 tonnes of CO2eq from the atmosphere over the next 10 years. In addition, thanks to the carbon farming practices implemented, the farm will be able to reduce its emissions from the management and inputs applied by 20-30%," explained Vaca.

He said: "The most important milestone is not only the registration of the project, but also that the carbon credits generated and offered for sale on the voluntary markets have aroused great interest and are already being sold at values higher than the European average for absorption credits, such as those from reforestation projects, which are around €35 per credit". The Cultiva Carbono programme raised all kinds of questions and an interesting debate due to the high level of interest shown by the attendees, who are increasingly aware of the importance of adopting more sustainable practices to align with new policies and consumption trends.