What if the cultivation of nettle had outlets in Hauts-de-France? This is the question being asked by the URTI-K association, which brings together a dozen farmers and foresters wishing to develop this forest edge plant. At the same time as several field trials which enabled them to validate the possibility of mechanizing the planting of nettles, they decided to entrust a group of 7 students in their 4th year of training as Agronomy and Agro-industries program at UniLaSalle with a market study on the development of this plant known for its nutritional properties.
After 7 months of work, Arthur Champigneulle, Augustin Gaillot, Gauthier Franque, Gautier Gadot, Guilhem Sterlin, Louis Chartier and Oscar Rivenet, all enrolled in the "Consulting and Business Management" course, presented their conclusions on Friday 23 April. Animal feed, and more particularly equine feed, appears to be the main outlet for this emerging sector, as well as the use of textiles and slurry.
Through this real case, the seven students were able to carry out a bibliographical study and apply investigative methods such as quantitative and qualitative analyses. "Around this project, a real collaboration was created between the group of students, the sponsors, AgriLab as coordinator, and the teaching team at UniLaSalle, in particular the HuMan department," explains Gilles Moreau, the teacher in charge of this project.
A collaboration with AgriLab
The first contacts with URTI-K date back to November 2018, as part of the Regional Research and Innovation Meetings organized with the Beauvaisis Agglomeration Community. The association approached UniLaSalle through its AgriLab collaborative innovation center, but also the Oise and Somme Chambers of Agriculture and CERFRANCE, to develop its project to create a new industry around nettle.
"In the spring of 2020, a farmer and member of URTI-K, Apolline Vasseur, herself a graduate of UniLaSalle, suggested that the students work on a market study," says Agathe Caille, a CERFRANCE and AgriLab double-hatted student, who coordinated the study. "This is the first time that AgriLab has collaborated with UniLaSalle engineering students on a commercial strategy. "
"Some of the group's students, potential candidates for a future farm takeover, showed particular interest in the project and the development of a new sector; this created a beautiful alchemy with the sponsors," concludes Gilles Moreau. A potential new sector for which they will have contributed their little stone to the building.