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Jakarta Post

Advanced biofuel crop could improve farmers'€™ income

  • Bambang Muryanto

    The Jakarta Post

Gunungkidul   /   Mon, June 3, 2013   /  09:45 am

A shrub originating from Europe, Camelina sativa, the seeds of which can be processed into biofuel has recently been planted in Playen, Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta, to help solve any future energy crisis and improve local farmers'€™ income.

The first planting of the shrub, also known as camelina, gold-of-pleasure, or false flax, was conducted by the Yogyakarta Forestry and Horticulture Agency in cooperation with Waterland Asia Investments Pte. Ltd, which has committed to buying the harvest.

'€œI really hope the camelina shrub will be able to improve the wealth of local farmers as they will not be dependent only on food crops,'€ agency head Akhmad Dawam said on the sidelines of the planting on Wednesday.

The shrubs were planted, widely spaced among rows of cajuput trees, on 300 hectares of state forest at Manggoran Resort.

Akhmad said his office was still conducting trials and research on the plant'€™s feasibility in Gunungkidul. If successful, he added, another 1,800 hectares of land would be provided for the plant.

'€œCamelina can be cultivated in dry seasons when it is impossible for farmers to plant food crops. Theoretically, therefore, this can improve the farmers'€™ income,'€ Akhmad said.

Compared to other bioenergy plants such as jatropha and nyamplung (Calophyllum inophullum), Akhmad said, camelina was more feasible because it required only two months to harvest.

Akhmad also said that his agency and Waterland had signed a cooperation agreement for the development of bio-energy plants and other crops in Gunungkidul regency.

Waterland, he said, would buy the harvest at between Rp 2,000 (20 US cents) and Rp 2,500 per kilogram. Leaves and stalks can be used for cattle feed and is priced at Rp 600 per kilogram.

Separately, Waterland chairman Adi Sasono said that the plant could be a solution to the need for renewable energy sources.

Indonesia, he said, currently was experiencing an energy emergency in the fossil fuel supply because imports accounted for 60% content of fuel production. At the same time, he added, domestic crude oil reserves were only some 4 billion barrels and this was expected to be used up in 10 years.

'€œWaterland is pushing cooperation between the European Community and Asia to produce renewable energy. So, this is a form of people-to-people cooperation,'€ said Adi, who is also a former cooperatives and small and medium
enterprises minister.

He said the shrub planted in Gunungkidul was the result of genetic engineering at the University of Cambridge, in the UK, where the harvest was reduced to two months from the previous five years.

Thanks to the genetic engineering, the plant also yields more seeds, is suitable for dry fields and is capable of fertilizing the soil.

'€œThat way we will not compete with other food crops,'€ Adi said.

He also said that Indonesia could produce fuel, including aviation fuel, from the camelina shrub in large volumes because the country had around 2.5 million hectares of dry land. For this to materialize, institutional support for farmers and local administrations was needed.

He expressed the hope the plant could also help keep younger generations living in their respective villages and earning a living as farmers. This in turn would help control urbanization and prevent Indonesian workers from having to work abroad.

Currently, according to Adi, Waterland has cooperated with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) to produce fuel from the shrub that meets international market standards. For this, he had to bring in sophisticated equipment from Germany.

 '€œWe are developing two factories: one to produce biodiesel and the other to produce cattle feed from camelina in Gunungkidul. Hopefully they will be ready for production this year,'€ he said.

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