AFP, published on Saturday, May 06, 2023 at 07:54
“The energy problem is much less technical than social,” says Arnaud Crétot, baker and roaster north of Rouen, whose particularity is to bake his bread in a solar oven.
Beret screwed on the head, Arnaud Crétot, 35, welcomes in his garden of Montville (Seine-Maritime) with the slogan of his Neoloco concept: “Local cultures, total change”.
Installed since 2020 in this small Norman village, he bakes his bread and roasts organic cereals in his garden using a wall of mirrors (the concentrator) which directs the direct rays of the sun towards a fixed point which heats a hermetic stainless steel enclosure, the oven.
The bread thus produced (in the wood oven when the sun is not there) is on sale for delivery by electric bike.
The model was economically viable in 2022 for two full-time equivalents at the minimum wage, assures Mr. Crétot, the remainder of the 80,000 euros in turnover being reinvested in the structure.
At Neoloco, the cheapest bread is sold for 5.50 euros per kilo, and 6.50 euros for 200 grams of the mixture of roasted seeds “resistant awakening”, with a taste close to coffee.
The day before a demonstration by bakers protesting against the price of energy which handicaps their businesses, Mr. Crétot speaks of a “tipping point”.
“We must agree to work on changing our culture, organization, the West is very well adapted to continuous energies, oil, nuclear, gas … etc”, analyzes the engineer, “if the human is not able to supply its small activities with the energy which feeds all the ecosystems of the planet, it is either a lack of intelligence, or a lack of wisdom”.
15 years ago, while studying in an engineering school, he realized that his course prepared him to enter large companies “which participate more in the problem than in the solution”.-
He then hitchhiked and backpacked with a friend on a one-year study trip on energy, in around twenty countries.-
On the program, the gas fields in the North Sea, the Finnish EPR and tidal turbines, the solar power plants of Andalusia, and above all a solar concentrator in India built by a company, Solar Fire, of which he will become the technical director.
– 250°C –
It’s a revelation: “the network largely meets a need for heat from crafts and industry, it will always be more efficient to produce heat directly, and not electricity intended to produce heat”, writes Arnaud Crétot in his book which has just been published, “The solar bakery” (Edition Terre Vivante).
Still a partner but less involved with Solar Fire, he uses the solar oven he helped design, the “Lytefire”, all year round.
“As soon as we see our shadow on the ground, it means that there is enough light to operate a solar oven”, explains the neo-baker, “it takes an hour to go up to 250 degrees, and then an hour per batch, in winter with four hours of sunshine, I make 110 kilos of bread a day”.
With two bakes per week, he had to produce bread that was still edible one week after coming out of the oven.
“It’s a big surprise for the bakers we train, here we don’t knead, we don’t use yeast, only sourdough and a short mix by hand are enough”, marvels Mr. Crétot, hands in the dough, “it’s less tiring, less time-consuming, and you don’t have to get up at 4am”.
Roasting represents two-thirds of Neoloco’s activity, an activity that Arnaud considers even more virtuous: “replacing 20 to 30% of coffee with local seeds, it could boost local agriculture, it reduces international transport and deforestation”.
“It is indicative of what can be done in many other sectors, in all other skills, there are surely such fundamental transformations that can happen,” he hopes.