Human health, animal health, environment, agriculture… The Departmental Laboratory for Analysis and Research (LDAR) of the Aisne Departmental Council is a centre of scientific expertise recognised in France and in over 20 countries!
“Our laboratory is just over 130 years old! It was born from the merger of the Aisne agronomic station, the veterinary diagnostic laboratory and the hydrology laboratory. The Aisne agronomic station, created at the end of the 19th century, was the source of many agricultural advances and developments. I am thinking in particular of the nitrogen forecasting method, which enables farmers to apply the necessary quantities of fertiliser to their crops while preserving the environmental from impact. This method is now recognised and used throughout France,” emphasises Fabrice Marcovecchio, an expert in fertilisers and business manager at LDAR. Having joined this public laboratory in 1989, Fabrice Marcovecchio first worked on the development of the structure and the quality of results, on the automation part and on the emergence of new methods. “Our skills are particularly well known in the analysis of soils, fertilisers and culture media, in the fields of microbiology, physical chemistry, biology and veterinary sciences. Over time, we have had to expand our areas of expertise to meet our customers’ demands beyond sampling and analysis,” he explains. Sampling, analysis, data processing, study and interpretation, audit, advice, expertise, approval, training, technology transfer… The LDAR now offers its clients a complete technical service. “Our multidisciplinary team employs about 150 engineers, doctors, technicians, sampling agents and experts, computer specialists, administrative staff, etc. We can also rely on a large network of partners (INRAe, ITB, Chambers of Agriculture of Aisne and Marne, etc.), with whom we work in synergy, to answer all questions related to fertilisation and the environment, agri-food and water, right up to technology transfer.
Four major sectors of activity
“The field of human health is increasingly occupying our activities. For example, the emergence of COVID-19 has particularly mobilised us. We had to set up an analytical and logistical process to meet local demand. Another of our missions consists in analysing drinking and leisure water (swimming pools and bathing water). Hot sanitary water (showers in collective establishments) as well as air conditioning towers are also monitored to prevent the risk of legionellosis,” says Fabrice Marcovecchio. The LDAR can also work on food hygiene for bakers, butchers, caterers, public restaurants and food industry professionals who are subject to the obligation of a self-sanitary control. “We provide a control on 5 points: raw material, environment, working method, labour and equipment. The laboratory checks the hygienic conditions in which the products are manufactured for consumption. Historically, it is in the agricultural sector that the LDAR has most developed its expertise, with an aura that extends beyond the borders of the Hauts-de-France region, the cradle of its establishment. “We offer various services to professionals, from studies to improve yields and production quality to direct advice to farmers. In the environmental field, the LDAR monitors urban and industrial discharges as part of self-monitoring: “We go to the industrial or local authority, take samples of the discharge water for 24 hours and measure the pollution load. This is a good illustration of the ability to interpret, with sampling that must be traced and independent, and analyses that must be objective. Finally, in terms of animal health, the LDAR’s Veterinary Unit teams analyse more than 130,000 samples each year: winter disease screening campaign, BSE, parasite research, analyses before meat is marketed, monitoring of epidemics affecting wildlife, etc.
Standardisation, international collaborations and accreditations
When Fabrice Marcovecchio is asked about the added value of the LDAR compared to other laboratories, the answer is manifold. “The laboratory’s interest is to propose gateways to regulatory developments, to remind people of the regulatory context for the marketing of a product, and possibly the regulatory valuation of a by-product. We are working within Afnor on the collection and quality of organic matter, but also on regulations that are going to come into force, such as the RCE 2019/1009, effective this summer, on fertilisers and which introduces the notion of biostimulants. We are also in contact with the European Committee for Standardisation and ISO. Another advantage of the LDAR? “Our clients are diverse and this is what makes our missions so rich: farmers, large producers, State services, hypermarkets, collective catering, water distributors, major players in recycling, etc. Not forgetting the Regional Health Agencies with which we work mainly on water but also on vector control against the tiger mosquito! Did you know that we have a colonisation point in Laon? The LDAR technicians monitor its establishment in the 5 departments of the Hauts-de-France region as well as the Marne and Ardennes, and communicate useful prevention advice to contain its rapid proliferation. The LDAR’s added value is also due to its numerous international collaborations: “We have always worked with fertiliser importers in Africa and the French overseas departments and territories, a way of projecting ourselves onto most continents… We also have, for example, clients from the USA or Canada who wish to access the European market and who can call on us for analyses, expertise and regulatory support. Finally, the LDAR can boast 15 ministerial approvals and accreditation by COFRAC* (COmité FRançais d’ACcréditation).
*The LDAR was accredited in 1994 by COFRAC for the analysis of fertilising materials and culture media. This innovative and spontaneous approach was a first in Europe for the sampling and analysis of fertilisers. Almost 30 years later, the LDAR has multiplied its turnover by at least 20 for sampling and services, and evaluation of fertilisers or their inputs. Accreditation is a guarantee of proficiency recognised throughout the world through an international “quality in laboratories” standard.
Priorities for today and tomorrow
“Today, our priority is the regulatory and health assessment of fertilisers. A concrete example is when a farmer comes to us to check whether the product he is buying is in compliance with the regulations,” he says. The LDAR’s role is then to check the quality of the products, but also their safety. “Our second current concern is to ensure that the use of co-products (digestates, biochars, composts, sludge, etc.) does not neglect the health aspects. The objective is to avoid certain crisis… I’m thinking of plant pathogens that are increasingly being talked about such as wood bacteria, like the disease that is starting to appear in the Champagne vineyards, flavescence dorée. Last year, there were about ten outbreaks. As a public laboratory, our mission is to ensure health safety. “Carbon is one of them. We can not only provide services based on decision support tools, but also services to check the quality of carbon in fertilisers and soils. Another priority area that will continue to be developed is training and work experience. The LDAR is committed to training its own staff in food hygiene, auditing, expertise, sampling, strategic monitoring, etc., and sometimes external staff. “It is essential to train people qualitatively so that they can really adapt to the diversity of our businesses and their specificity. Fabrice Marcovecchio assures us: “There is no shortage of projects: the agronomic, sanitary, regulatory and methanogenic qualities of horse manure, roadside grass cuttings and invasive aquatic plants. A whole programme that Fabrice Marcovecchio and the LDAR team will undoubtedly tackle with all the expertise and professionalism for which they are renowned.
WHY JOIN BIOECONOMY FOR CHANGE?
“We joined Bioeconomy For Change 4/5 years ago, with the aim of reproducing the major event of 2010, co-organised with B4C, on the theme of fertilising materials, which was a great success! In the end, we had great visibility, with about a hundred participants, including the European Commission, Flemish and Walloon people… The idea for us is to collaborate on different formats such as workshops, which allow us to work on crucial subjects in a small group and in an efficient way. The advantage of B4C is its real strength in terms of communication and organisation, which would allow us to have really interesting spin-offs around events, workshops, regulatory and technical actions* and other collaborative programmes.”
*Chairmen (GEMAS Groupement d’Etudes des Méthodes d’Analyses du Sol, Commission Dénomination Spécification et Marquage du BN FERTI)
Some figures :
150 permanent staff
15 ministerial approvals
15 departments covered on a daily basis
320,000 annual samples
1,500,000 annual analyses
1,600,000 km travelled by samplers
Departmental analysis and research laboratory
Pôle du Griffon
Griffon business park
180 rue Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
02007 LAON cedex