We are accustomed to think of farmers as producers of food. But the future of farmers might be quite different; being able to produce environmentally friendly fuels and revolutionary new bio plastics for packaging and automotive industries.
Already, oil prices have risen significantly, and soon they may even double. The oil will certainly not end, but all the major oil sources are in principle known, the availability is decreasing rapidly, while oil consumption including Asia is rising as a result of industrialization. It is for environmental reasons entirely necessary that we, as soon as possible, put man’s ruthless exploitation of nature on the back shelf. Before that happens, it is important to have developed new fuels and materials that can replace oil.
Research in this area is intense in the world. Several products are already commercially viable or waiting to break through.
For example, PLA, polylactic acid, is a plastic which can be used for food packaging, clothing and biological implants. First, the PLA compete on price, and you can use the environmental argument, among other things, that the packages bio degradable. Environmental friendliness has proved so attractive that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for the goods. PLA is made from corn, but it is just as easy to make from wheat or sugar beet. To the recovered starch is added bacteria that ferment lactic acid as presented in turn polymerized to plastic.
Manufacture of bio plastics and PLA is still too expensive but several products are lined up, including a bio plastic with similar characteristics to the plastic in PET bottles.
Sugar beets can be used for much more than sugar: Plastic, ethanol for automotive fuel and de-icing, to name a few.
Sugar beets are interesting for the production of ethanol as an environmentally friendly fuel. Even traditionally planted and harvested sugar beets can be used as a feedstock for ethanol. Ethanol is expected to come down to a price of about forty cents per litre. This is lower than the production cost of the equivalent amount of gasoline. With the two-year high-yielding, sugar beet, would position the ethanol fuel market strengthened even more.
Sugar beets can be important also to remove most of the salt from our winter roads. Already last winter they tested SNRA a mixture of beet powder and salt. Testing was conducted on closed roads and passed off so well that the tests will continue this winter on open roads. Beet powder mixture lowered the freezing point and remained longer on the road than the salt.
Although lubricants can be replaced with bio-based oils, by genetically modify Crambe, a relatively unknown plant not used for food purposes, shows quality lubricating oils that can only be compared with the high-quality spermaceti found in sperm whales head.
There is a very large industrial interest in this herbal oil. It can withstand high temperatures, resists oxidation and rarely needs replacing.
Industrial hemp is another product with a bright future. The plant’s long fibres can handle heavy loads suitable as a filler and reinforcement in plastics, paper and fibres for fabrics. Moreover, it is fast growing and can produce several harvests a year.
German car makers; Mercedes, Audi and BMW, have about 20 kg of hemp in their doors and dashboards.
The total area of agricultural crops cannot be greater, but the yield may increase. Given the environment and the economy shouldn’t we promote these alternative goods?
If we also develop alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and wave energy so that they may be economically competitive with conventional energy, there is hope for a bright future for Mother Earth.