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Profile of an Even’Up award winner

EVEN | Profile of an Even’Up award winner. Interview with Éric Junker, the man behind start-up Massaï.

Ever heard of a farmer who doesn’t want to improve their farm’s protein autonomy? Or who doesn’t strive to produce high quality milk, meat or eggs? This dream may be within reach thanks to Massaï, one of the winning concepts in the Even’Up innovation competition.

 

 

We met the man behind the idea: Eric Juncker, agricultural engineer and doctor of science.

What is Massaï?

Eric Juncker: “Massaï is a concept based on the separated harvesting and conservation of alfalfa or red clover, whereby the leaves and stems are separated while preserving their qualities. We obtain two separate fractions: an abundant and systematically protein-rich fraction with 27% total nitrogen and a fibre-rich fraction with 9 to 14% total nitrogen.”

In what way is your concept, which roughly equates to a combine harvester for legume crops, innovative?

“Massaï is a ground-breaking concept in relation to the conventional harvesting process. Up until now, alfalfa has always been harvested as a whole crop. The quality of the hay, silage or haylage obtained depended on the stage of growth. Several days of fair weather were required for each cut. The separating harvesting machine we’ve developed is one of a kind. The harvesting process takes just 24 hours, thus mitigating weather risks. What’s more, the products obtained are guaranteed to be of higher quality. Over and above the comfort provided, there are numerous benefits for farmers. They boost their level of locally sourced, non-GMO protein autonomy. They improve the quality of their animal products as alfalfa contains omega-3 fatty acids which are practically non-existent in soybean. Plus they reduce their farm’s carbon footprint.”

What types of farms is the Massaï concept targeted towards?

“The protein-rich fraction is of nutritional value to feed high producing dairy cows of course, but also pigs, and poultry farmed for meat or eggs. The cellulose fraction is suitable for livestock with lower protein requirements: heifers, gestating sows, etc.”

Where did the name Massaï come from?

“When I entered the Worldwide Innovation Challenge, I needed to find a name for the project. I wanted an acronym, and came up with Massaï which stands for “Majeure Alternative Simple au Soja Actuellement Importé” (simple major alternative to currently imported soybean). It’s also a nod to East Africa’s famous semi-nomad group. The Maasai people are known for being good farmers and brave warriors.”

What made you enter the Even’Up competition?

“I think the Even Group has an original and open-minded approach towards innovation. I get the impression that the Cooperative is really devoted to its member farmers’ interests. I also of course aim to develop Massaï, which offers farmers in North-West France a real alternative. I am delighted to have been selected, to have received such a positive response and to be able to pursue the development of this concept in partnership with the Cooperative.”

Interview by Edith Llistosella

Eric Juncker also talked to us about Massaï in a video interview: click here to watch.