No. 5 on the French tomato market and No. 3 in Bretagne, Solarenn (in Saint-Armel; 30 to 45 employees; 2017 sales: €45 million; 32 producers) is a cooperative serving sustainable agriculture, halfway between conventional and organic farming. In 10 years, the cooperative has doubled its volume to 30,000 tonnes of tomatoes in 2017, along with 80 tonnes of wild strawberries and 30 tonnes of mini peppers. 75% of its production is intended for mass distribution in France. Solarenn is also active in restaurants & catering (15% of its volume). The rest of its tomatoes and to a lesser extent its strawberries (2% to 3% of its production) are exported to Germany, Spain or the Czech Republic.
The “Managers” range
Solarenn’s greenhouse growers are required by their quality charter to practice what they define as reasoned farming, with drip feeding, and above all, no treatment that is not approved in organic agriculture. They rely on biocontrol to treat plants through the use of natural mechanisms (insects). Despite these efforts, the European Community’s above-ground crops are not certifiable as “organic”, as they are in the United States or Canada. So to raise its profile, Solarenn is launching “Les Responsables”, a range of small tomatoes with no chemical treatment or insecticide and harvested at maturity. They are sold in recyclable packaging.
Furthermore, Solarenn, Prince de Bretagne and Savéol are launching the “Pesticide free, 100% Natural” label, a 100% natural but not “organic” range. This collective approach aims to promote their vegetables produced by following a common set of specifications that guarantee the absence of any use of synthetic pesticides on tomatoes. Other vegetables could be included in this new range. Beginning with cauliflowers and artichokes, as well as shallots.
A committed player in ecological transition
In addition to applied biological protection to ensure the produce is pesticide-free, Solarenn and its producers are committed to reduced water and fertiliser use, good energy management, waste recycling and natural pollination, as well as the development of cogeneration and renewable energies (methanisation, wood biomass, etc.) on farms. In order to reduce their energy costs, which make up on average 20% of the cost price of tomatoes, 60% of Solarenn’s producers are equipped for cogeneration. In this way, they can reduce energy costs for their greenhouse tomato production by a factor of 2 or even 3.
Sources : Ouest France – 06/03/2018, Bretagne Bretons – 29/03/2018, Paysan Breton – 08/04/2018
Photo credit : Solarenn