The rebirth of the pine resin industry

Pine resin has been harvested in the Landes since the Middle Ages: the resin was distilled to obtain pitch, a viscous, sticky substance with many uses.

Since then, gemmage has gone from strength to strength: new harvesting and gathering techniques have been developed to increase yields, and new properties of the resin have been discovered.

Gemmage reached a turning point in the 1950s, when the "resiniers", as they were known, turned to a chemical activator: sulphuric acid. Although this delayed scarring and increased resin yield, it had disastrous consequences for the environment and the health of resin workers, leading to occupational illnesses.

Gumming reached its peak in the 1970s, generating 18,000 jobs and harvesting 178,000 tonnes of resin. But in 1990, with competition coming mainly from China and Brazil, French resin harvesting collapsed and eventually disappeared. Holiste's ultimate ambition is to relaunch a gemmage industry. To this end, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is supporting Holiste in its drive to industrialise its harvesting method and establish a model that is economically viable on a regional scale.

In 2010, Holiste created the BioGemme brand in order to secure its gemmage (or resin extraction) process in Biscarosse, in the Landes region of France, with the aim of offering a quality turpentine essential oil for the proper functioning of its Bol d'air Jacquier. This process enables us to :

> Ensure the long-term future of our business by exploiting a product from our own harvest.

> Offer our customers a high-quality, traceable, responsible and eco-certified French product.

We have carried out a programme of scientific and technical research into resin harvesting, in conjunction with laboratories and universities, backed up by meticulous field trials and observations, leading to the development in 2018 of a resin harvesting method that respects the tree grower, the tree and the environment.

The pine resin extraction process

The gumming process begins in June, and initially involves using a special machine to make a circular dent in the bark of the Landes pine, grazing the trunk of the tree. A patented 100% natural organic acid-based activator is then applied to the dent. It will allow the resin to flow more abundantly and slow down the healing of the tree.

A flexible container is then applied to the breach using a connector, to collect the resin leaking from the tree. Packaged in this way, the resin is protected from impurities, evaporation and oxidation, ensuring a pure product.

As soon as the harvest is complete in October, we empty the bags of resin into barrels using a specially adapted machine. The barrels of resin are then transported to our local partner, BIOLANDES, which will distil the resin using a specific, gentle process to obtain the essential oils of turpentine and oresin, as well as rosin, the solid part.

These distillation products are certified organic.

The advantages of BioGemme gemmage

BioGemme gemmage has a number of advantages over the so-called "traditional" or "old-fashioned" method:


> The 100% natural activator poses no risk to the operator, the tree or the surrounding fauna.

> The trunk of the tree is not damaged, so the quality of the wood to be cut is not affected.

A research programme conducted by the CRPF (Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière) is tending to show that gemmage using the BioGemme method results in greater mechanical strength in the wood, making it an asset for construction.

> Gemmage requires regular maintenance of the forest plots beforehand, which reduces the risk of fire. In addition, the presence of gemmasters in the forest is also a way of "watching over the forest" and preventing this risk.


> The operator's work is made easier thanks to the mechanisation of harvesting and bag emptying.


> Gemming enables forest owners who want to generate additional income from their plots to do so.

> A dedicated team works year-round at the Biscarosse site, and seasonal workers are brought in to supplement the workforce during the harvesting period.

Ever more responsible

In 2022, following an eco-design diagnosis, Holiste gave concrete expression to its commitment to environmental protection by initiating a Life Cycle Analysis of the gem and its distillation products with ADEME and the Landes CCI. Our aim is to assess and reduce all aspects of our environmental impact - supplies, forest logistics, recycling of gemmaking bags and boxes, etc.

BioGemme partners

Holiste is piloting BioGemme in collaboration with other companies and institutions, around the ecological harvesting of pine resin in the Landes region in a spirit of creativity and sharing.

BioGemme was developed over 10 years of R&D with the help of the Landes department, the DIRRECTE, CETIM, ADEME, the New Aquitaine and Bourgogne Franche-Comté regions and the CNPF.

BioGemme is part of the European SustForest Plus programme: an initiative led by the main players in the natural resin value chain in south-west Europe to boost economic activity in the sector.