How does a small forestry owner get an income from their plantation in the period between the planting grant running out and the trees being ready to harvest? One option is to sell the thinnings and prunings of the maturing forest to produce wood fuel products, such as chips, pellets and blocks. Vulcan is a partnership between Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) and Danone, the multi-national food producing company, that aims to establish and resource five large producer groups in the southeast region to develop both the supply of biomass and the consumers of the product.
KLP has been working on the biomass development issue for a while with the idea of ensuring that all parties in the developing supply chain get financial value from the arrangement. KLP was then approached by Danone, who had learnt of the ‘value chain’ concept and wanted to support the expansion of it to a regional basis. Danone Ecosystem has a €100 million budget to work with local Danone subsidiaries, non-governmental organisations, like KLP and other local stakeholders.
Over the 2012 to 2015 period, the development strategy will focus on the formation of ‘production groups’ of companies of between eighty to a hundred forestry growers in each county. Danone will offer each of the production groups a contract to supply a proportion of its wood chip at an agreed price to the Wexford plant. These project support staff will work with the groups to grow the consumer base as well as organise the supply chain. The goal is that by the end of 2015, the five production companies will have created a robust and integrated set of ‘value chains’ that will be able to not only exist but thrive in the open market.
Vulcan is a really exciting and novel test for KLP and Danone. KLP is looking forward to the challenge. If it can deliver on the project goals, KLP will have made a very significant contribution towards rural development not just in Kilkenny, but in the wider southeast region. More than that, the project and the partnership of several LEADER companies with Danone will have demonstrated the flexibility and universality of the LEADER methodology and philosophy.