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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/19072

Title: Structural change in agriculture induced by innovative biobased technologies, an agent-based approach
Authors: Maes, Dries
Advisors: Van Passel, Steven
Pauwels, Piet
Vancauteren, Mark
Mathijs, Erik
Vangronsveld, Jaco
Witters, Nele
Fagiolo, Giorgio
Balmann, Alfons
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: Industry and policy makers pursue the development of a biobased economy. The biobased economy emerged first as a promising segment of new biotech applications. But during the last years, the term evolved to cover a much larger concept. It currently has grown to a vision for a new industrial structure where all products, from energy carriers, plastics and food to high value additives and pharmaceuticals, are entirely based on organic matter, thereby annihilating any need for fossil fuels. Of all economic sectors that are concerned by this evolution, agriculture certainly will undergo some of the larger effects. New biobased products will increase demand for existing and new crops. Transformation technologies of agricultural waste flows will also change market conditions for farmers. One of the main interactions between agriculture in the new bioeconomy, is based on manure. In regions with high animal density such as Flanders, manure is the largest agricultural waste stream. Several alternatives are being tested to dispose of manure in a sustainable way, in order to use it as a primary resource for new products. These solutions are often based on the natural activity of plants, algae, bacteria or insects, and lead to the production of chemicals, biofuels, paper and feedstock. There are several impacts on agriculture from this development. The market conditions for the disposal of manure may be changed. Also, several biobased solutions require large land surfaces, and this drives up the demand for agricultural land. Finally, the outputs of some processes are again inserted in the food chain as feedstock for animals or specialised fertilisers. Given the multiple interactions between the innovative manure treatment sector and agriculture, it is unclear precisely how the agricultural sector will be impacted. This dissertation develops an economic model that simulates both the evolution of the Flemish livestock production sector, and the manure treatment sector. The model looks simultaneously at the adaptation of farmers and the emergence of technological innovations in the manure treatment sector. Different scenarios simulate the future development of both sectors. Various policies to support the bioeconomy are also analysed, and their impact on the evolution of agriculture in Flanders is discussed. The results show that the growth of an innovative manure treatment sector depends first and foremost on the availability of investment capital. At the same time, the effect of the new industrial sector on agriculture is very small. The agricultural sector displays a very rigid behaviour, and its slow adaptation is a barrier for the development of an innovative manure treatment sector. The difficulty of agriculture to adapt is situated in non-adaptive behaviour of a proportion of the farmers, and in the high volatility of manure prices. The rigidity of the agricultural sector is not in the advantage of the farmers. Market conditions for farmers, and farm profitability, remain low during the evolution. The results also show that policies and subsidies to stimulate the biobased economy have very little impact in these cases. The development of an industrial sector, based on manure treatment, is hazardous when manure prices are uncertain. If policies for the bioeconomy are implemented without regard for the link with agriculture, the effectivity of the policies will be very low. The effort will not lead to the development of a growing bioeconomy, and the evolution will not improve the economic situation of the Flemish livestock production either. It is more important for policies to take the lack of adaptability of the agricultural sector into account. This requires better insight in the determinants of adaptive behaviour of farmers, and the construction of efficient and transparent markets for the trade of organic matter and agricultural waste flows.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/19072
ISBN: 9789089130396
Category: T1
Type: Theses and Dissertations
Appears in Collections: PhD theses
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