The Origin Green breakfast briefing, held at the ExCel exhibition centre at the start of the three-day Food Matters expo, kicked off with an overview by Jim O’Toole, director of meat and sustainable development of the Origin Green initiative, which is the flagship of the Irish food board, Bord Bia.
Origin Green’s primary goal is to put Ireland on the map as an efficient supplier of high-quality, sustainable food.
Farm audit program
O’Toole first turned his attention to those at the heart of the country’s food industry: farmers themselves, noting the initiative’s success or failure ultimately rests on getting them on board with the sustainability agenda.
Four years after Origin Green’s launch, more than 16,000 dairy farm owners are now signed up to the initiative’s farm audit program.
Attendees heard about the business case for sustainable farm and food production, including an area such as energy use.
Investment in more efficient technologies and streamlined processes is expected to see energy consumption (per unit of production) drop by 16% by next year (compared to 2010). The reduction corresponds to an estimated saving of €12m ($12.7m).
The importance of data
The final speaker, Tom Cumberlege, associate director of advisory services at The Carbon Trust, stressed the multiple layers and multiple actors that make up today’s complex food chains.
Good data can help simplify the task, he said. Since its inception, Origin Green has worked with the Carbon Trust to develop mechanisms and metrics for accurately assessing environmental impacts.
This isn’t about collecting numbers for numbers’ sake, Cumberlege noted. Improvements require targets, and targets require metrics: that’s the essential rationale behind Origin Green’s emphasis on consistent monitoring and, by extension, continuous improvement.
To date there are 527 Irish food and drink companies registered with Origin Green, representing more than 90% of exports.