13. October 2020
Bodeschmiede Follow-Up AgroLavendel
Success message from soil forge finalist Felix Rudolph for his lavender cultivation
How have the finalists of the Bodenschmiede ideas competition been doing since its end in June? Farm & Food spoke to Felix Rudolph, Managing Director of Fiedleye GmbH, at the beginning of October 2020 about his product concept with consumer price participation for lavender cultivation. You can check out his live pitch from summer 2020 here (German).
By Sarah Liebigt
Farm & Food: Please introduce yourself and your project
Felix Rudolph: My name is Felix Rudolph. I run a project for lavender cultivation with the aim of producing essential oils. We are a group of three people: a marketing lady, a food technologist and I am a farmer. The most important thing with us is that we involve farmers in our marketing and have developed participation models. In that the farmer can also profit of the sale of the oils. We planted 33 hectares of lavender last year and will triple this amount for the next season.
What has happened since the Bodenschmiede Livepitch in summer?
After our presentation at the Bodenschmiede, our project has continued. Instead of four partners, we now have around 22 contract farmers who are growing lavender with us for next year. And in parallel we are developing marketing, channels on the Internet, to wholesalers, to various customers, to whom we will offer the lavender oil from July next year. The financing has also been set up in parallel and we are in the process of ordering all the techniques and equipment that we will need in June 2021.
Which channels have worked particularly well for advertising?
The demand from farmers was very high. We have met about 40 or 50 people through the Facebook page, of whom 20 are left, who will actually plant now in November.
What difficulties and problems did you encounter?
The biggest challenge is that you want to produce and sell a product that everyone knows, but whose production conditions nobody knows. Also, hardly anyone can judge the chances of selling it. It’s a problem for the producer that he ultimately has to believe that we will make good sales per hectare.
On the other hand, we also need to convince banks, who have never dealt with this topic in Austria, that this is an innovative new product. It is new and unknown and therefore a risk for the banks.
The nice thing is that we have chosen a very environmentally conscious culture. There is a permanent culture for 15 years with a deeply rooted plant. We have a ground cover that reduces the sunlight on the soil and the row cultivation offers protection against erosion by wind. We use neither fertilizer nor pesticides and produce on organic farms in Austria.
How do you intend to continue, what is your outlook for the future?
There are two directions. On the one hand, we have received inquiries from farmers in southern Austria and western Austria as to whether our model could not be established one-to-one in other places as well. That would mean expansion beyond our territory.
There would be other plants that we could process by steam distillation, such as lemon balm and thyme, but also needles from coniferous woods, which we could also extract to essential oils. In addition to lavender oil, the production process also produces lavender hydrolate, which is also a product being marketed in cosmetics. We want to market this as well.
The third product that is produced is the remains of the extraction: a sterile organic lavender straw, which is suitable for owners of sensitive animals, such as noble horses, but also small animal owners who want to use such a special straw. Because it has not only a very pleasant smell, but also an insecticidal effect.