POP News


Programme d’investissements d’Avenir (PIA)

Naturellement Popcorn Project Consortium

Press release

Bézéril, France, 10 February 2020


Bézéril, France, 10 February 2020 – The Consortium, set up in 2018, has just signed an agreement to develop and roll-out, over a 6-year period, the Naturellement Popcorn project whose aim is to establish a high-quality, top-of-the-range and traced popcorn production and distribution chain and to add value to every link in this chain. This project, whose overall budget stands at 7.5 million euros, has received 4.4 million euros of funding from the Programme d’investissements d’Avenir (PIA – future investments programme), controlled by the General Investment Office (SGPI) and administrated by Bpifrance. One of the core aims is to develop a unique measuring resource to calculate the amount of carbon stored in soils by producers through the use of intermediate crops. The objective is to provide, for the first time, financial reward for producers for their positive impact on the environment and on climate change.

The farmer: a key stakeholder in ecological transitioning

The partnership between Nataïs and its popcorn maize producers in southwest France is a key differentiating factor for the company in the European market. The company has always encouraged and valued regenerative agricultural practices. It was thus a natural move for it to approach INRAE (via its Agroecology, Innovations and Land joint research unit (AGIR) and the centre for the study of the biosphere from space (CESBIO[1])), Paul Sabatier University (which has links with CESBIO) and AGRO D’OC to work on technical solutions that would allow the development of an objective indicator for consumers, institutions and producers of the environmental value of the services performed by the farmer.

This project will comprise four steps, with the objective being to develop a carbon balance indicator which reveals the difference between the COcaptured by plant photosynthesis and that released by plant respiration and the decomposition of organic matter in the soil. The success of the project relies on paying the farmer a carbon premium; currently set at about €75/tonne of carbon sequestered for the long-term in the soil.

Innovative and precise farming practices, based on fundamental principles

How we use the soil is an important issue for our society. Indeed, it is now clear that soil-related factors play an important role in climate change and in high-quality yields. At its most fundamental, agroecology seeks to introduce alternative pathways designed to establish farming practices that are fit for the future. One of the key study areas for the project is enhancing the value of intermediate crops, e.g. through reduced-tillage combined with new technologies: modelling, remote detection, artificial intelligence, the use of drones for data collection, etc. to combat bio-aggressors more effectively and more durably.

“INRAE is involved in agroecological transitioning through its work on conservation agriculture, reduced-tillage and ecosystem services relating to intermediate crops with the aim being to improve the properties and biodiversity of the soil, to sequester carbon and to slow climate change. For this project, we shall explore agroecological growing practices for popcorn maize and tailor them to the specific issues.”, stated Célia Seassau, senior lecturer at INP-PURPAN who is leading the scientific work performed by the INRAE Agroecology, Innovations and Land joint research unit on this project.

Eric Ceschia, INRAE research director at CESBIO added: “The development of the Carbon Balance indicator will be based on a new type of agronomic model, which reliably indicates the growing rates of popcorn maize and of intermediate crops since it uses vegetation growth data “seen” by earth observation satellites (Sentinel). This methodology will be tested on 50 pilot farms prior to being rolled out to the entire network of producers.” .

“Combating erosion and improving soil fertility are two key issues for the farmers of southwest France. In this regard, this project should culminate in our members being able to claim fair compensation for positive farming practices they implement to store carbon in the soil. The ultimate goal is to combine improved technical and economic performance in agriculture with positive impacts on the environment” outlined Sylvain Hypolite, R&D Manager at AGRO D’OC.

Consumers connected to the origin of the product

To complete this virtuous circle, STMS has joined the Consortium to share its expertise with regard to the digital aspects of the project, and notably to support the implementation of SAP blockchain technology. Quality level, origin and production methods constitute essential information for European consumers. Transparency in the supply and processing chain and the type of farming practised re-establishes consumer confidence and let them reconnect with the origins of the product. Blockchain technology gives the product meaning, and makes it easier to relate to.

“In essence, blockchain acts as a digital, trusted third party. It establishes a connection between every stakeholder: the farmer, Nataïs production and quality, the distributor and the consumer. In this way, consumers can access a trustworthy source of all the information they require about the product they consume. Nataïs is thus creating a direct link with its end customers” stated Xavier Ayral, Associate Director at STMS

Using innovation to add value and strengthen market leading position in Europe

An innovative and transparent structure that sets the standard in its market; top quality popcorn, produced responsibly, based on tasty, natural ingredients produced by a local and family-based farming model; and global operations. These are the core differentiating factor for Nataïs which adds value for the benefit of the company and its customers in France and worldwide (supermarket chains, snack manufacturers, cinemas).

“The Naturellement Popcorn project typifies Nataïs’s founding values. It expresses our passion for agriculture, the land, innovation and high-quality popcorn. It is fully consistent with our overall strategic approach; the objective of which is to maintain our market leading position, develop farming methods of the future and bring together the agricultural sector, consumers and the food processing industry” explained Michael Ehmann, Chairman and Founder of Nataïs.

About Nataïs:

Based in Bézéril, a small village in the Gers area of southwest France, Nataïs is the market-leading manufacturer and packager of popcorn in Europe. In 2018, the company turned over sales of 50.7 million euros. Nataïs has a payroll of 130 employees and 280 partner farmers. The company exports its products to more than 50 countries, with 90% of its sales generated outside France. It holds a 35% share of the European popcorn market. The 7,200 hectares of land farmed with care and attention by Nataïs produce 55,000 tonnes of maize a year. For more information: https://www.popcorn.fr/

About INRAE:

INRAE, the French national research institute for agriculture, food and the environment, is a major research and innovation body set up on January 1, 2020. This applied research institute was formed by the merger of two French research bodies, INRA and IRSTEA. INRAE comprises a community of 12,000 people, with a few more than 200 research units and about 40 experimental units located in 18 centres across France. The institute is one of the leading research bodies globally on agriculture, food, plant and animal science and ranks 11th in the world in ecology and the environment. INRAE aims to play a key role in the transitions needed to tackle the biggest challenges facing us globally. In light of population growth, climate change, decreasing availability of resources and declining biodiversity, the institute is developing solutions for diversified farming, good-quality food and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems. www.inrae.fr

Two INRAE units are involved in the “Naturellement popcorn” project:

  •  The Agroecology, Innovation and Land joint research unit (AGIR, INRAE/INP Toulouse) comprises three research teams and a research support team. Two research teams are working on issues relating to the development of agroecosystems that promote agroecological objectives: the design and evaluation of growing systems for agroecological production, and the generation of agriculture-based knowledge and tools to manage and add value to natural resources (water, prairie, etc.). The third studies and supports the types of organisation and innovations that need to be implemented in the agricultural sector to permit the agroecological transitioning of farming.
  • CESBIO is a joint research unit with CNRS (national centre for scientific research), CNES (national centre for space studies), IRD (research institute for development), INRAE and Paul Sabatier University, and is also part of the Midi Pyrénées observatory: https://www.cesbio.cnrs.fr. The purpose of CESBIO is to contribute to the progress of knowledge on the functioning and dynamics of the continental biosphere at various spatial and temporal scales. At the intersection of several field, including physics and life sciences (particularly ecology), CESBIO provides a link between space studies and the analysis of the environment.

About AGRO D’OC:

AGRO D’OC is a consultancy cooperative structured on the activities of the C.E.T.A. (technical centres for agricultural study). Its 1,150 members located across southwest France share strong values: economic and environmental performance, the exchange of information between farmers, training and financial independence. Improving soil fertility is a historical theme that is central to its operations. The use of modern tools such as digital techniques and satellite imaging open the door to further and rapid advances in this field.

About Bpifrance:

Bpifrance finances businesses – at every stage of their development – through loans, guarantees and equity investments. It supports their projects so that they can innovate and grow internationally. Bpifrance also helps companies develop their export activities through a broad range of products. Bpifrance’s services to entrepreneurs also includes offering advisory, university, networking and growth acceleration programs to start‐ups and SMEs. Bpifrance and its 48 regional offices give entrepreneurs access to a single, effective and local point of contact to help them rise to the challenges they face.

For more information: www.bpifrance.fr/presse.bpifrance.fr

Follow us on Twitter: @Bpifrance – @BpifrancePresse

About the Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir (PIA)

With a total budget of 57 billion euros, the Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir (future investments programme), controlled by the General Investment Office (SGPI), was set up by the French state to fund innovative and promising investment opportunities in France, with a view to accelerating growth and employment.  Since the PIA was launched, the French state has co-funded more than 6,000 future-focussed projects. A share of this future investments programme (10 billion euros) is resourced from the 57-billion-euro Major Investment Plan (GPI) newly committed to by the French government in 2017 and which will be implemented throughout the current five-year term to support structural reforms and respond to four major challenges facing France: carbon neutrality, access to employment, competitiveness through innovation and the Digital State

More information on the SGPI website – Follow us on Twitter: @SGPI_avenir


About STMS:

Founded in 2007 and based in Toulouse and Paris, STMS supports its customers’ innovation, integration and transformation initiatives using SAP ERP and its Cloud platform.

The company’s 70 consultants draw on their experience and operational expertise to offer services tailored to customer requirements and to deliver high value added know-how. This support takes many forms – from advice to innovation and from support with business challenges to the functional and technical implementation of solutions.

For more information: www.stms.fr



Anna Beauchamp : a.beauchamp@giesbert-mandin.fr – 06 88 94 44 42


Célia Seassau, Ecole d’Ingénieurs de PURPAN : Celia.seassau@purpan.fr – 0561152971
Eric Ceschia, CESBIO: Eric.ceschia@cesbio.cnes.fr – 0561558529

Contacts presse :
INRAE (si besoin) :
Service de presse INRAE : presse@inrae.fr – 01 42 75 91 86


Sylvain Hypolite: Sylvain.hypolite@agrodoc.fr – 06 11 05 56 23

Bpifrance :

Laure Schlagdenhauffen : laure.schlagdenhauffen@bpifrance.fr – 01 41 79 85 38

Programme d’investissements d’avenir:

Lucas Tourny : lucas.tourny@pm.gouv.fr – 01 42 75 64 58


Xavier Ayral: xavier.ayral@stms.fr – 06 19 56 24 04