Carbon neutral is all the rage across the globe as governments, businesses and individuals strive for a more sustainable planet. Growers are trying to do their part, as well.
The Nottingham-based Fresh Growers, or Freshgro co-operative, is hoping to deliver the world’s first carbon-neutral carrots later this year. The 10 farmers said premium Chantenay carrots, which will be grown within 15 miles of its packhouse, are being targeted for supermarkets and caterers throughout the UK, so long as they can get carbon-neutral status by the summer.
Freshgro has made strong commitments to being environmentally friendly, with its packhouse powered by a 500kW wind turbine and 200kW solar panels, which can quadruple the typical energy it uses and gives back to the National Grid. The process is streamlined from seed to packing.
“As a business we have always been focused on things that have been both cost-efficient and good for the environment,” Martin Evans, Chief Executive of Freshgro, said. “It’s a part of the culture of the business and we knew we were managing our carbon impact efficiently, but none of the existing tools we looked at were sophisticated enough to accurately measure where we were. Now we are working with experts who understand our sector so that we can transparently say to customers and consumers that our carrots are truly produced in harmony with nature, with no net climate impact.”
Freshgro has combined their efforts with Campbell-Gibbons Consulting and Intellync-Sustain, which will use life-cycle analysis to determine the carbon footprint of its carrot production. They plan to forge a reduction plan through offsets to get to that carbon-neutral status. The cooperative, which has already has accreditations from LEAF to Field to Fork, Sedex and BRC Grade A, has reduced the amount of water being used on its site, as well as packaging on its products. It hopes to soon produce a new fibre-based punnet for carrots.
“Achieving carbon neutral status for a premium fresh produce crop like Chantenay carrots will resonate with retailers and consumers, and promotes the huge potential growers have to supply products with minimal climate impacts” Evans said.
Chantenay carrots got their start in the Chantenay region of France as early as the mid-1800s, for medicinal purposes. They ceased production in the 1970. However, Freshgro has brought them back in recent years, focused on varieties, size and better production. It is the top supplier of Chantenay carrots in the world and also grows Piccolo parsnips, asparagus and other root crops.
Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, the former NFU Chief Horticultural Adviser who runs a specialist consultancy, lauded Freshgro’s efforts.
“Capturing growers’ environmental performance on issues such as biodiversity, waste, plastics and water use and setting clear targets for improvement provides a focus for the business, meets government policy priorities and, crucially, satisfies the demands of retail customers who are asking, and obliging, suppliers to step up on sustainability,” she said.