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Bamboo: A Regenerative Crop for Europe

ThinkBamboo Podcast: Season 1, Episode 3

In this episode of the ThinkBamboo Podcast, Hans Friedrich, a global authority on bamboo, provides insights into the European bamboo program’s progress. He discusses the partnership with BambooLogic for a 1000-hectare bamboo plantation in Portugal and emphasizes bamboo’s potential as a regenerative crop. Explore why bamboo holds the key to a greener future, particularly for Europe.

About Our Guest – Dr. Hans Friederich

He is a global ambassador for the World Bamboo Organization, and a partner and senior advisor of BambooLogic in the Netherlands. Dr. Friederich, who led the INBAR Secretariat, has worked in various countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, and Botswana. He is a member of the Expert Panel for the Life Terra Foundation, overseeing a significant European tree planting initiative. Following his departure from INBAR in 2019, BambooLogic reached out to him to join their European bamboo program as a member of the Steering Committee for the “Bamboo Europe” research project at ArtEZ University of the Arts.Recognizing his potential, the Dutch company invited him to assist in launching a European bamboo program. Given his knowledge and expertise, he was an ideal choice for the role. Today, Hans will share his vision for the future of bamboo in Europe and discuss strategies for developing the industry surrounding this sustainable resource.

See Video Podcast Interview

The full video podcast interview with Hans Friederich and JJ from

Video Interview Summary Quick-Links:

[00:06] Bamboo’s trade is Asia to EU & the US
[05:07] Growing bamboo sustainability in EU
[09:36] Increase rainfall and retain water
[13:41] Bamboo over 1500 different species
[18:04] Bamboo has antibacterial properties
[22:30] Growing bamboo tissue culture
[26:41] Bamboo forests provide added value
[30:53] The European Bamboo Expo

The Billion Dollar Bamboo Industry in China

During his tenure at INBAR, he noticed that Asia, particularly China, predominantly exports bamboo to Europe and the United States. Despite bamboo not being native to Europe, the market there experiences significant demand, making it an appealing destination.

China holds supremacy in the global bamboo industry, both domestically and internationally. Hans Friederich, the former director-general of INBAR, reveals that China’s domestic bamboo sector was valued at a staggering 60 billion US Dollars five years ago, likely surpassing that figure today. Bamboo’s allure extends beyond China’s borders, with substantial international trade, largely originating from Asia and led by China. Clearly, China wields significant influence in the realm of bamboo.

Developing a European Bamboo Program

Bamboo is not typically associated with Europe, and most people might not even be aware that it is grown there. As Europe started to focus more on green development and sustainability, Hans saw an opportunity to introduce bamboo as a sustainable crop in Europe. In southern Europe, there is a lot of unused agricultural land that could be repurposed for bamboo cultivation. Hans’s team at BambooLogic bought some land in Portugal and began planting moso bamboo, treating it as an agricultural crop. Moso Bamboo, the largest temperate bamboo on earth, is a prized timber species native to China and Taiwan. With its economic importance in China, it’s no wonder that Phyllostachys edulis is commonly known as the “king of bamboo”.

Hans’s team’s efforts have been successful, and they are now working towards establishing a European bamboo program. The program aims to promote the use of bamboo in Europe, increase awareness about its sustainability, and support the development of the bamboo industry in Europe.

Benefits of Bamboo as a Crop

Bamboo boasts numerous crop advantages: fast growth, multiple stem production, and high productivity. Its deep root system prevents soil erosion and enhances soil quality. Sustainability is another key aspect, as bamboo can be harvested without killing the plant and doesn’t necessitate pesticides or fertilizers.

With applications spanning construction, fashion, textiles, food, and medicine, bamboo offers immense versatility. Hans envisions Europe reaping substantial benefits from its versatility and sustainability. Promoting bamboo cultivation can foster job creation, economic growth, and the establishment of a greener, more sustainable economy.

Misconceptions About Bamboo

In the interview’s latter part, Hans Friederich discusses bamboo’s advantages and the potential for its cultivation in Portugal and Europe. He dispels misconceptions, including the belief that bamboo requires excessive water, clarifying that it’s not the case. Although initial plantations may require irrigation, bamboo forests excel at water retention and filtration, akin to natural water tanks. Moreover, these forests enhance rainfall and rejuvenate areas that have suffered deforestation, creating green patches.

Photo: Moso Bamboo forest in Guizhou Province, China
Photo: Moso Bamboo forest in Guizhou Province, China

Adaptable Bamboo and Potential for Expansion

Friederich highlights bamboo’s adaptability, with the ability to thrive in various environments based on bamboo type and local conditions. His organization recently partnered with a British company, enabling them to expand their bamboo plantation to a massive 1,000 hectares. In Italy, some companies adopt a distinct approach by collaborating with individual farmers who cultivate small bamboo plots.

Moso Bamboo in Portugal

Friederich states that they grow running moso bamboo, which fully regenerates and has a lifespan of 70-120 years. He emphasizes bamboo’s diversity, with over 1,500 known species and ongoing discoveries.

Regarding flowering, Friederich explains that clumping bamboo flowers every 50-70 years, resulting in death. In contrast, running bamboo, such as their cultivated type, flowers, produces seeds, but doesn’t perish.

While much knowledge about bamboo exists, there’s still ample room for further learning, and the potential for bamboo cultivation in Europe is immense.

Bamboo’s Versatility Beyond Construction

construction. Bamboo is utilized by European companies for paper and composite materials. Additionally, they are researching bamboo fibers as substitutes for glass or carbon fiber in bicycles, boat hulls, and car models. The companies prioritize local bamboo sourcing over distant imports.

Challenges of Bamboo Cultivation in Portugal

Friederich discusses bamboo growth challenges in Portugal. Lack of awareness hampers progress as people worry about invasiveness, water usage, and unnaturalness. Acquiring sufficient young plants for vast areas is another hurdle. To tackle this, they collaborate with a Belgian plantation, an excellent partner for supplying planting materials. Tissue culture yields abundant plants from a mother plant. After a year, the plants are transplanted when they reach 80-100 cm in height.

Overall, Friederich highlights the need for more awareness and education about bamboo and its potential applications. He also emphasizes the importance of sourcing bamboo locally and sustainably to support local economies and reduce reliance on imports.