The Figeac cooperative farms involved in territorial innovation

Photovoltaic roof on a Reilhac © Figeac Farms

Photovoltaic roof on a Reilhac © Figeac Farms

Published by Yannick Régnier on

To contribute to the implantation of high added value farming managing the living, both innovative and open to others, in order to promote sustainable development for everyone, on their own land: this is the vision that has been promoted for 30 years by the Sicaseli, today the Figeac Farms, on the land of Ségala Limargue (department of Lot). It is not surprising that the farming cooperative, grouping 650 farms and 1,000 men and women, has joined up with/taken on board sustainable energy on its journey!

Aware that the future of farming cannot rely solely on agricultural production, the Figeac Farms have committed to the integration of farming into their environment and on their land, and to a diversification of their income based, notably, on the natural resources of their land. The promotion of the land through energy-related measures will be one of the keys to their future prosperity. Hence, the cooperative has taken up a number of significant projects articulated around renewable energies.

The cooperative plugs into the sun…

The first project was the installation of solar roofs on farm buildings within the framework of a mutualized structure: the SAS Ségala Agriculture et Energie Solaire. Counting 109 farmers, 188 covered buildings, an effective power of 6.9 MW and 7.2 million kWh of expected production, this collective photovoltaic project is a success, thanks to the enthusiasm of those participating, to the collective means and the economic optimization authorized/ brought about by the creation of the SAS. “The expected annual net income of € 1.2 million on average over 20 years will benefit the agricultural industries of Ségala-Limargue and contribute to the economic development of the land”, states Laurent Causse, in charge of the cooperative’s energetic department. “We can consider this project as an indirect funding of the development of local farming by the state, hence a dual goal for public aid:Renewable energies and farming.” 

... and is starting to feel the wind turn

Remarking that a wind turbine plant had been developed on its land, the Sicaseli suggested that the developer, Valorem, should integrate a share of local funding into the project. Today, the financial construction is aiming at a 49% participation of local actors: local authorities, citizens and farmers [1]. Furthermore, by intervening at an early stage in the process, the Sicaseli is now considering complete control of another project in the High-Segala, via the creation of a dedicated structure [2]. After the definition of a Wind Turbine Development Zone, there will still be the need to find a developer willing to participate in territorial cooperation…

Structuring the wood energy industry in a short circuit

Many farmers also own poorly woodlands which are poorly exploited as they are essentially located on sloping ground. The cooperative has been offering a wood shredding service for the past years and to this effect it purchased a small sawmill located on the territory in 2010 [3]. This will enable the development of a line of 100 % Ségala-Limargue forest pellets, notably destined for the heating of companies or community buildings, but also for mulching for the livestock. The demand must still be strengthened with the installation of new wood boilers and the value of timber must be promoted, as it is necessary to the economic balance of the industry.

Methanization, the link of the farming system of the territory

After a fruitless attempt to develop a territorial methanization unit in 2007 [4], the Figeac Farm cooperative is now focusing on a small collective model, with 3 or 4 farmers. The potential exists; more consideration is now centered on the heat market: the culture of alfalfa is envisaged to guarantee the protein autonomy of the territory [5]. The drying of bales is also being experimented and could create an outlet for heat generated from biogas. One thing is sure: “Figeac farms” is not running out of ideas yet! To be followed!

[1] The construction permit of the park has been filed recently and the implementation of the service is planned for 2013.

[2] On the model of photovoltaic.

[3] It is also studying the possible acquisition of another, larger one although the overall economic equation remains complex.

[4]  Adjoining the factory of a dairy industry group which would have provided a significant share of organic matter and a heat market.

[5] For bovine, dairy and meat.