Organic group funds 'seed to shelf' sustainability schemes

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Aurora organic dairy, Greenhouse gas, Carbon dioxide, Agriculture

A leading organic dairy processor in the US has announced a new
research initiative for reducing its carbon footprint, as part of a
new funding program designed to improve efficiency in sustainable
production.

Aurora Organic Dairy, in cooperation with the University of Michigan, says it hopes to find solutions to reduce the environmental impacts of all aspects of its operations from cattle feed through to processing and packaging use. Regulatory and consumer pressures are forcing processors to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to portray themselves as environmentally responsible in producing their products. Some regulators are even debating the creation of a CO2 label that would help consumers compare the emissions related to each brand. It is in this marketplace that the group has opted to fund research into how best it can meet the challenges of carbon emission reduction within organic production, through the newly formed Aurora Organic Dairy Foundation. According to Aurora, this not-for-profit body will aid research and development of new schemes and techniques to benefit the entire organic industry from farmers to processors. A spokesperson for the company told DairyReporter.com that while all food and beverage companies were having to work on reducing their environmental impact, the focus is particularly important to the organic industry,. "Organic companies, by their sheer nature of being focused on sustainable agricultural, tend to have environmental stewardship as part of their missions, like [ourselves]," they said.​ The foundation's first grant of $320,000 will be used to fund a long-term partnership with the centre for sustainable systems at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment. The company says the grant will aid lifecycle and sustainability research at the company's own farm and production facilities in Colorado and Texas. The research is to be led by Professor Gregory Keoleian and Martin Heller with the main aim of initially developing an energy and carbon footprint model to give a baseline to measure any improvements in sustainability by the company. Further research may switch to the company's energy supply and demand options, as well as non fuel-related carbon emissions, and energy and greenhouse gasses generated from materials such as packaging. Keoleian said that the centre was a major opportunity to address a number of the challenges facing organic food production. "[We] look forward to sharing our findings and recommendations with the organic agriculture community to help drive meaningful change in energy consumption and carbon emissions patterns resulting from organic farming,"​ he stated. Group president Mark Retzloff claimed in addition that the funding was the first of many grants to come from the foundation to give all organic farmers and processors a better knowledge of sustainable production. "Our goal is to evaluate what we do on our farms and throughout our supply chain, to develop tools for guiding our company and enhancing our sustainability performance,"​ he stated. "We intend to learn as much as we can about how to make organic agriculture even more sustainable."​ Aurora Organic Dairy claims it has already implemented a number of drives to cut down on its carbon footprint, from reducing transportation needs to cutting energy use. The company added that it also used renewable energy and bio diesel on our farms to reduce our environmental impact.

Related topics: Markets, Sustainability

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