Alexis Sabin

Agronomy trainee

I'm a student at AXEREAL since the beginning of the school year 2021, and I'm also doing a master's degree in agricultural engineering. On this blog, I will regularly share with you my daily life in the company, where I am in charge of carrying out carbon diagnostics for farmers in order to help them move towards a low-carbon agriculture.

The final phase of my apprenticeship


For me, this first semester of the year coincides with my final-year project, from which I will write my dissertation, marking the completion of my course. I am going to be looking at the carbon footprint of grain, to help us to meet our customers’ expectations even more effectively.

This topic gives me the opportunity to interact on a regular basis with several departments across the cooperative, including CSR, trading and obviously agronomics.

In parallel, I’m continuing my work on tracking the cooperative’s low-carbon channels. This includes the start of the new season in the low-GHG rapeseed, sunflower seed and wheat channels, and re-evaluating the practices of farmers involved in the neutral malt channel with a view to setting new targets for the new season.

The data produced will be used to support farmers as they adapt their practices, helping them cut their carbon footprints and enhance soil health. Organic fertilisation, cover crops and reduced tillage improve soil fertility, increase carbon storage and help preserve biodiversity.

A quiz on regenerative agriculture at the Paris International Agricultural Show

Animation intercereales 3.png

Regenerative agriculture recognises the importance of the soil, biodiversity and the climate in tackling the challenges faced by agriculture and the food industry. It puts more emphasis on ways of stocking carbon and dealing with climate change.

Axereal’s low carbon channels, which I help to develop through my work, are a key part of the transition to regenerative agriculture. The model will equip us to produce food that is both good for our health and good for the environment. Farmers are working hard to move to more environmentally appropriate ways of operating, and letting consumers know this is essential.

To help raise awareness, I joined a number of other Axereal apprentices, from agronomics, milling and communications, on the Intercéréales stand to organise a quiz at the Paris International Agricultural Show. For example, one of the questions I asked the members of the public present was, “What can farmers do to reduce their carbon footprints?”

This quiz was an opportunity to talk to large numbers of people about how farmers are introducing secondary crops, reducing tillage, growing pulses and replacing mineral fertilisers with organic ones.

Discover launch day Organiser

Journée Discover - credit Didier Depoorter (21).jpg

Axereal recently launched “Discover”, a community for the group’s interns, Erasmus students, apprentices and VIE volunteers. To mark the launch, an integration day was held to bring the whole community together.

The aim was to present the different business areas and talk to the group’s leaders about their strategic vision for the future. It helped us to understand the role that we as young staff have in the cooperative’s commitment to making agriculture regenerative.

In addition, the day was an opportunity to spend time with our peers from across Axereal in a non-work setting, getting to know one another and team building through the various activities.

As I’ve been with the cooperative for over a year now, I was invited to help out as an organiser. I introduced various parts of the event, and talked about integrating into the group as an apprentice and what I do day-to-day.

Internship in Central Europe

Stage en Europe centrale

I felt it was important to carry out an internship focusing on innovation between the two years of my master’s degree, which I’m studying as an apprentice. Thanks to Axereal Agriculture’s presence in Central Europe, I was able to spend 10 weeks at the Nova Gradiška site in Croatia taking a close look at the innovative topic of carbon footprint management and reduction. Nova Gradiška is Axereal’s main certified seed production site in Central Europe and it’s also where varietal trials are carried out.

My internship was an opportunity to find out more about Axereal’s business in Croatia and I surveyed numerous farmers, not only Croatian but also Hungarian and Romanian, to evaluate their carbon footprints and see how engaged they were in reducing carbon. It also enabled me to learn more about how agriculture operates in Croatia and the practices used.

My stay was a fantastic experience, and I learned a great deal both on a professional level and about the local culture. It was an honour to meet people 100% dedicated to their roles, who work to share the Axereal values in different parts of the world.

Training for sales engineers on carbon issues

Formation carbone

As carbon diagnostics continue apace with farmers, there is a pressing need to train sales engineers on all things carbon. Every single sales engineer has received training this year from Axereal, with some of them being designated “carbon lead” for their region. This designation puts a face to the topic of carbon in each region and facilitates the reporting of the diagnostics and the implementation of low-carbon practices. 

To this end, the leads underwent an additional training day in order to improve their understanding of carbon issues and of the Axereal carbon trajectory. I then went on to present them with the results of the initial diagnostics, the practices that have an impact on the carbon inventory, and the action levers for reducing carbon emission and for carbon sequestration. The day concluded with a practical workshop at which the sales engineers practised reporting a diagnostic.

This training day offered me the opportunity to share the results from the farms that we support with the sales engineers, so that they are able to keep track of the day-to-day lives of farmers, discuss possible developments with them, answer their questions concerning low-carbon agriculture, and discover how farmers themselves feel about the topic.

Understanding the carbon issue in agriculture

Schéma effet de serre

Before telling you about my missions, here are a few preliminaries on the subject I work on daily. The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon that keeps temperatures on the planet relatively stable, thanks to the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that keep the sun's rays warm and thus allow life on our planet. However, due to the increase in the concentration of these gases caused by human activities, mainly nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide in agriculture, the temperature is rising and this is not without consequences for our climate and ecosystems.

Like other activities, agriculture produces GHG emissions. These emissions are mitigated by the virtuous phenomenon of carbon storage in the soil. This corresponds to the capture of carbon by the biosphere, which allows it to be buried in the soil. This carbon becomes organic matter, a central element of soil fertility. Thanks to this phenomenon, agriculture becomes part of the solution. By adopting low-carbon practices such as longer rotations, replacing mineral fertilisers with organic fertilisers and permanent soil cover, agriculture can minimise the impact of its emissions. We are working every day to support farmers in this transition.

My tasks within the cooperative

Photo bureau

As part of the low-carbon label, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food published the Field Crops method in July 2021, which allows for the labelling of agricultural projects that reduce emissions or sequester carbon. My main mission is therefore to carry out carbon diagnostics with farmers. To do this, here are the steps:

1. Collecting data from the farmer

2. Establish the reference balance of the farm

3. Accompany the farmer in his low-carbon transition project by presenting him with the various action levers

4. Create a project scenario in the form of an action plan with the levers chosen by the farmer.

In parallel with the diagnoses, I also have the task of participating in the development of low-carbon channels within the cooperative and I take part in the construction of training courses for technical sales staff on carbon issues.

Carrying out these diagnoses is an opportunity for me to talk to farmers about their system and their agronomic choices. I gain a lot of experience from this, both in terms of my technical learning and the actions taken by farmers to move their farms towards a more sustainable model.