27/12/2012 § Leave a Comment
Engaged 383ppm in 2007 to complete a carbon footprint of their apple growing and storage processes, this was before there was a Carbon Trust standard so we worked closely with Carbon Trust to agree an approach and verify our findings and in 2008 we returned to implement some carbon reduction measures and to help communicate the work to a wider audience. Before we start a bit about Blackmoor:
- Grower of Premium English Apples since the 1920’s
- 100 ha Top Fruit orchards
- Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco
- Pack house & Fruit Nursery
Our work found agrichemicals (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertililsers) to be the largest sources of carbon emissions. This is important because for a number of reasons (poor data from manufacturers, uncertain science) the emissions due to agrichemicals are probably the least understood or easily quantified.
Some varieties are a lot easier to grow than others and it shows in the carbon footprint. Cox is a more delicate fruit requiring more support during the growing season and needs more application of agrochemicals hence the greater emissions when compared to Gala.
Fruit grown on a traditional tree has a 40% greater footprint than one grown on a Trellis system. This simply down to yield per unit hectare – planting density 800 per ha in a Traditional orchard and 2,600 per ha on a Trellis orchard. Due to the flat geometry of the a trellis tree (fruit very nearly grows on the main trunk of the tree) whereas on a traditional tree you get significant branching before fruit is produced – this benefits the trellis tree as spraying is a lot more efficient and targeted. This means you apply the same amount of agrichemicals on ha of Trellis trees as you would on a ha of Traditional trees.
On the ‘Trellis’ Tree the fruit grows nearly directly on the main trunk so no energy is wasted growing extra woody material, additionally it’s a flatter 2-D structure making it easier and more efficient to spray agrochemicals and absorb sunlight.
Early Bird: Low Carbon does not imply High Tech
Fruit is cooler at daybreak than later on in the afternoon – less time and energy to pull down. Currently harvesting starts at 08:30, early bird would start at 06:00Field measurements show apples are around 9 °C at 06:00 and can reach 31°C in the afternoon. On a “typical” day pull-down times could be lowered by 21%, on a hot day by over 40%. Orchard managers should plan to use Early Bird using short term weather forecasts. Apples should go into storage as dry as possible the surface moisture is no greater at 6:00am than at 10:00am, in fact is probably less.
Best Practice: Often Low Carbon
Fruit is collected by pickers and put into fruit bins (circa 350kg) in the past empty bins were placed individually between orchard rows and collected again by tractors when they were full, you’d end up with tractors driving up and down rows all day, burning a lot of diesel and reducing the productivity of the picking team as they waited for a bin to replaced. The picking train an innovation introduced by Blackmoor before we started work in 2007 reduced diesel usage by driving a train of three bins very slowly between a row of tress as they fruit is picked, when the bin the three bins are full they are driven out again, all in a single pass of the tractor.. The electric vehicle in this picture is not usually part of the picking train it’s normally a diesel tractor. This EV was trialed as part of 383ppm’s work in 2008.
Marks and Spencer decided to take advantage of the work done and are using a unique label for apples from Blackmoor Estate. The label reminds the consumer about the great taste, that the apples are British and uses an uncontroversial element of the carbon footprint (Trellis) to make a low carbon claim and allude to the ongoing commitment of Blackmoor to reducing carbon.
Conclusion: A Meaningful Low Carbon Label
- Transparent & Practical Analysis
- Often Best Practice is Low Carbon
- Well communicated commitment to innovation and continuous improvement
- Focus on commercial benefits (cost and competitive advantage)
- Taste & Nutrition are still the consumers top priorities
27/12/2012 § Leave a Comment
Consumers are overloaded with a plethora of different labels. In the UK alone there are over 80 different labels and food assurance scheme including Organic, Red Tractor or RSPCA Freedom Foods. Companies want to help consumers make the right decision and differentiate their products but a recent survey by Which? [a consumer research magazine] found that only 20% of consumers understand the majority of labels. But does that mean for a carbon label?
Despite all of this consumers do care if a brand is ‘Green’ or not. Ignoring for now what Green actually means across these countries from this research it is clear that Green is important to about 80% of consumers to a greater or lesser extent.
But Quality & Taste and I suspect price is still the most important factor effecting a consumers decision to buy. So we can’t sacrifice either of these to reduce emissions.
We hear a lot about what people like their brands to do, you know I’d like it to be green or ethical but does that translate into real hard changes in buyer behaviour. The simple answer is yes it does. The top two categories ‘Free Range’ and ‘Fair Trade’ are about reducing the suffering of animals (Free Range Eggs sales have increased dramatically in the UK over the last decade) or sharing the rewards with others (FairTrade). Organic is perceived to be better for the environment or the individual. Looking at this, the question is is their space for a Low Carbon label?– and I’d say yes it is but over time I’d expect it to become part of an overarching scheme such as organic.
Labels are either digital or they convey the values of the product being sold. To a consumer a digital label is easy to understand since it tells you whether a product is vegetarian, kosha or halal and either you have to have it or you don’t.
Ethical or green labels have a more complex message to communicate and whether it effects your purchasing decision is up to you. FairTrade is the most successful ethical label in the UK – it pays a fair price to growers in the developing world and not to exploit them. The Soil Association’s Organic Standard is the best known organic brand.
The UK’s Carbon Trust are introducing their own carbon label, it is well intended – providing a common measurement framework (PAS 2050) but it faces some challenges for example the process of completing a footprint is expensive and beyond the reach of most growers and secondly consumers don’t know if 100g of CO2e is high or low.
So we know two things, one consumer demand exists but a label (and the marketing behind it has to clearly communicate what it stands for) and two it has to be rooted in something meaningful to the consumer and not just a set of numbers.
We have yet to see compelling evidence that a consumer will pay extra for a purely carbon label. Free Range yes, Organic yes, Rainforest Alliance yes but I don’t think low carbon. So how does carbon reduction make sense for a grower – it only make sense if leads to lower production costs because you are increasing yield or are able to take advantage of renewable energy.