In a one-of-a-kind ‘farming with nature’ initiative, multinational supplier Westfalia Fruit Group has successfully launched and is maintaining a highly sustainable avocado orchard on protected land in the Alcácer do Sal region of Portugal.
Within a Site of Community Importance and under regulations from the Portuguese government and European Union law, it is currently growing the trees on a portion of an abandoned farm. Westfalia had conducted surveys and has implemented measures to ensure low environmental impact while also preserving 50% of the land that is part of the reserve. It is being managed as a Natura 2000 site.
“Before we even started planning the orchard that was planted in 2016, a floral inventory was carried out as well as an ecological survey,” said Daniel Ferreira, General Manager at Westfalia Fruit Iberia. “Areas of sensitivity were identified for the protection of priority species, including along the southern boundary of the property and these are being safeguarded.”
Westfalia is creating a permanent buffer strip to delineate its seed-growing areas of “protected species” that exist on the farm. Those seeds will be harvested at Herdade das Texugueiras and nearby locations during the season over the next four years.
Despite wildfires that have engulfed many areas of Portugal, the development on the land being used by Westfalia has not been affected thanks to the company’s shrewd work in clearing tree branches and other debris.
That is good news for Westfalia, its customers and the overall possibilities of using low-impact techniques in areas that previously have not been considered. Officials with the company say they are using a low-flow drip irrigation system “that saves up to 20% of the water used with standard irrigation.” Soil covers are helping to both seal in moisture and allow for natural barriers against weeds spreading.
“We knew from the outset of this project that farming with a nature reserve would be a topic for discussion,” Ferreira said. “In the last few years, I’m so proud of our achievements and that we’ve shown we can grow avocados on this property using minimal water and protect endemic biodiversity at the same time.”
Westfalia grows, sources, ripens, packs, processes, and markets accredited avocados year-round globally and features avocado oil, low-preservative guacamole, frozen avocado, and dried fruit. It maintains sales offices around the world, including one in the UK.