- Press release
, François-Xavier Branthôme
“…To balance an increased demand with global sustainability”
In the 2017 campaign, 37.4 million metric tonnes (mT) of industrial tomatoes were produced worldwide. The largest tomato producer is the United States, where 9.92 million mT were processed, followed by China 5.60 million mT and Italy 5.20 million mT. Spain was the fourth largest producer in the world, with 3.30 million mT in 2017. In Spain, the main processing tomato producing region is Extremadura with 2.13 million mT.
The processing tomato is the most important crop in Extremadura in terms of employment and income in the region. There have been considerable improvements over the last few years in production processes, nevertheless, improving practices in terms of cost reduction, energy saving, production efficiency, food safety and environmental protection, remain vital to the sustainable future of the processing tomato crop in Extremadura. One of the main challenges facing the agro industrial sector during the coming decades will be the need to balance an increased demand for food with global sustainability.
Agricultural activity creates one of the greatest impacts on the environment, and with population growth and increased consumption only set to double the demand for food by 2050, the best solution will likely be achieved through the intensification of sustainable agriculture, and by increasing agricultural yields, while simultaneously reducing environmental impact. By employing established key performance indicators for production efficiency and environmental sustainability, it is possible to accurately measure current efficiency levels and thus, implement improvement measures.
It is therefore necessary to measure the impact of production processes on the environment, which is achieved through the use of a range of sustainability indicators, the most common being the measurements of carbon and water footprints.
The carbon footprint is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere (directly or indirectly) as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, event or product. The environmental impact of such emissions is measured according to internationally recognized guidelines, such as, the GHG protocol, ISO 14064-1 and PAS 2050, among others. Once the carbon footprint - the mass of CO2 emissions - has been established, strategies can be implemented for its reduction or mitigation through a variety of private and public programs (e.g. TomPrint Operational Group). This type of activity represents a means for entities and organizations to demonstrate social responsibility and to raise awareness of sustainable practices for the population in general.
The concept of the Water Footprint was created by Arjen Hoekstra of the institute of Water Education, UNESCO in 2002, and is defined as the total volume of fresh water used, directly or indirectly, to produce the goods and services consumed by an individual, community or business.
Water use is measured in water volume consumed (or evaporated) and/or polluted per unit of time. A Water Footprint Assessment is geographically explicit showing the location and quantity of water used or polluted globally and has become an effective tool for the evaluation of water resource sustainability.
TomPrint Operational Group
The use of such quantifiable indexes along with rigorous agronomic diagnosis of each industrial tomato holding forms the basis of a strategic approach in the sector, designed to identify and improve the value of these sustainability indicators as a means of improving overall production efficiency and environmental sustainability.
In addition, rural development plans with the support of The European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural productivity and Sustainability" (EIP-AGRI) can take advantage of new measures designed to promote more efficient agriculture in terms of resource use while simultaneously, decreasing emissions. The stated objective of the EIP is to promote rapid and scalable innovative solutions in agriculture.
In this respect, Operational Groups (OG) form a crucial part of the EIP in terms of agricultural productivity and sustainability, and it follows that innovation projects launched by the EIP would be adopted by Operational Groups, which bring together farmers, researchers, businesses, and various other stakeholders, with an interest in promoting innovation in the agricultural sector.
The goal of the TomPrint Operational Group is the mitigation of the environmental effect produced by the processing tomato industry in Extremadura. This objective will be achieved through the development of a computer application which will record and analyse data from each stage of the crop cycle in order to establish the Carbon and Water Footprints of each campaign.
Once the data for each stage of the campaign has been defined, water and carbon reduction plans can be devised for subsequent campaigns. This objective is aligned with those of The European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural productivity and Sustainability" (EIP-AGRI) which promotes the efficient, productive, and competitive use of natural resources, while simultaneously increasing sustainability and protecting the environment.
The TomPrint Operational Group has passed the first phase, or formation phase, of becoming an Operational Group. The second phase has been submitted for approval and is currently being finalised. For this reason, the material and methods outlined here will be presented in the future tense, while the results referred to in this article refer to the expectations we are hoping to achieve.
The Operational Group consists of 5 processing tomato companies, 2 Information Technology service companies and a Technological Centre, CTAEX. The representative of the group is Conesa. The Conesa group is the main industry in processing tomato in the region accounting for 33% of total production for tomato transformation in the last campaign (2017). The remaining companies in the OG belong to the TomPrint group, which comprises, Tomates del Guadiana, Pronat, Tomalia and Alsat. These 5 companies account for 78% of the production of the industrial tomato in the region and 50% of the total national output. IaaS365 and Solucionex will provide IT support with CTAEX serving to link the new technology with the tomato producers. AGRUCON (AGRUPACIÓN ESPAÑOLA DE CONSERVAS VEGETALES) and Cooperativas Agroalimentarias Extremadura will also collaborate in the dissemination of the results.
For the members of the TomPrint group, sustainability is becoming increasingly important due primarily to client and consumer demand to quantify the effect the tomato production cycle has on the environment. This will require collecting and analysing a vast amount of data to calculate the water and carbon footprint.
The (WF) Water Footprint, calculated in accordance with the most widely recognised methodology used by the Water Footprint Network, and the (CF) Carbon Footprint (calculated using ACV, PAS and ISO), are considered to be the primary indicators used to evaluate the effect of industrial processes on the environment and will be the indicators used for this project.
Researchers in 2009 completed a detailed study on the WF of the tomato production industry in Spain. The study calculated the total volume of water used (evaporated, contaminated, or otherwise lost) in the Autonomous Communities of Spain (CC.AA.) The study focused on the regions with the highest tomato production, determining the volume of water required to dilute contaminated water and achieve minimum levels of performance in open fields to be 8 m3/t per hectare. As previously noted the Autonomous Communities that consumes most water for tomato production is Extremadura, which largely produces industrial tomatoes, followed by Andalucía, which primarily produces fresh tomato for export.
Using these indexes and by means of agronomic diagnosis of each holding, measures to improve the value of these indicators can then be defined in order to increase environmental sustainability, while enhancing production efficiency, key to the strategic plan in the sector. These calculations will include each phase of the industrial tomato production cycle, from sewing in greenhouses, to processing and packaging, eventually resulting in the development of an innovative tool for improved efficiency in the tomato sector and for the agroindustry in general.
Establishing the current sustainability footprint of the tomato industry
A carbon footprint is defined as the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere, as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, event, or product. The carbon footprint of an agricultural holding or an organization measures the total GHG emitted either directly or indirectly from the activities involved in that organization. This data can be used as a global indicator of the sustainability of an organization. This carbon footprint can then be used as a reference point on which to base activities designed to reduce energy consumption and to use resources in ways that are more environmentally friendly.
A water footprint is defined as, the total volume of fresh water used directly or indirectly in the activities of a company to provide goods or services. The water footprint takes into account the consumption or contamination of water, either directly or indirectly at every stage of a production process. There are three distinct components of the water footprint of a product or service i.e., the blue water footprint (surface and groundwater resources), the green water footprint (rain water, water contained in plants and soil), and the grey water footprint (fresh water needed to dilute the pollutant load).
The methodology employed in the calculation of the water footprint and carbon footprint of the industrial tomato process will serve, on the one hand as a starting point for the creation of the computer application, while at the same time establishing a reference for the validation of the application itself. Calculating both sustainability indicators will be carried out in adherence with regulation UNE-ISO 14064, with the participation of the five biggest tomato processing organizations in the region which form part of the Operational Group.
To begin with the methodology for calculating the carbon footprint of the crop in both greenhouse and field will be established in terms of equivalent tonnes of CO2 emitted (t CO2eq) to the atmosphere, as a result of industrial tomato planting and harvesting, with the 2017 campaign being used as a benchmark. This will involve collecting and defining a broad set of data regarding the cultivation of the crop, in particular nitrogen inputs and any additional organic applications. Among the many factors to be considered will be the disposal of crop residue, and emissions from fuel and electricity consumption.
The next step will be to develop the methodology used to calculate the carbon footprint of the activities involved in the processing of the industrial tomato crop to establish the equivalent tonnes of CO2 emitted (t CO2eq) to the atmosphere. This will be based on the following information: calculating the quantity of fossil fuels used in fixed installations and in transportation, the leakage of fluorinated gases from air conditioning and refrigeration systems, electricity consumption including the proportion of energy coming from renewable sources.
The methodology to be followed for the calculation of the water footprint which will be applied to the cultivation and processing of the industrial tomato crop will be that of Ferreyra et al. (2013), itself based on the system described by Hoekstra et al. (2011), which forms the basis of the Water Footprint Manual, a widely recognised publication for the calculation of the water footprint. This methodology will be used to determine the blue, green and grey water footprints, giving the total water footprint for the entire crop, from cultivation to eventual processing.
Finally, the critical control points for industrial tomato cultivation and the transformation process will be established to determine the factors which have the greatest environmental impact, allowing the formulation of a coordinated strategy to reduce water and carbon footprints throughout the entire process.
Creation of the TomPrint application
The computer application for the calculation of the sustainability footprint will be created according to the specifications to be established by the members of the OG.
Once the TomPrint Tool has been developed, it will be tested during milestone 2 of the project, both by agricultural producers and by the tomato processing industries.
This activity aims to achieve three fundamental objectives:
1. The validation of the application with reference to the first year of calculation.
2. Validate the application during the development of the tomato campaign, in the second year of calculation.
3. Establish the water and carbon balance of all the factors involved in the production and transformation of the tomato industry throughout the project, which will serve as a benchmark for evaluating successive campaigns.
The final result of this Operational Group will be an Information Technology tool that, using the baseline data obtained, will be able to quantify the water and carbon footprint of the main tomato producing industries in the region for each subsequent campaign. Tomprint will, therefore, make it possible to manage the quantified environmental impact by use of this computer application, placing specific emphasis on subsequent campaigns and in particular the phases of the production process that generate the greatest environmental impact. This action will provide another means for this important sector of the region in becoming increasingly socially responsible entities, while further raising awareness of the need of the adoption of more sustainable practices in general.
At present, the separate measurement of the water and carbon footprint is accessible to any institution that demands it, however it requires the use of specific databases and software, which take considerable time and effort to learn. The advantages that the tool developed by TomPrint will have, is that by means of a simple interface, which will include the relevant information in a series of drop-down lists, growers, technicians, processors, etc. will be able to calculate the amount of CO2 generated during the entire production cycle of the industrial tomato crop and the amount of water consumed throughout the campaign.
The final users of the results of this project will be the producers in the agro industrial sector of the tomato industry, but due to the versatility of the tool that will be created, a variety of other agri-food sectors will also be able to make use of it.
The expected results from the execution of the TomPrint Operational Group strategy are the following:
- Every phase of the production cycle of the industrial tomato will be identified (from the formation of the plant to the processing in the industry) and to what extent each can play in the reduction plan for the water and carbon footprint.
- The water and carbon footprint of the tomato industry in Extremadura will be obtained.
- The results obtained will be independently managed by TomPrint ensuring the confidentiality of the data with regards to each phase of the process.
- The computer application will allow the management of the quantified environmental impact, focusing especially on subsequent campaigns and the phases of the productive process that generate the greatest impact.
- The environmental impact produced by the tomato industry in Extremadura will be mitigated as far as it is possible.
Tomprint will represent a technological advance for the agro-industry in Extremadura, identifying the links in the productive chain of the tomato industry in which there is the greatest consumption of carbon and water, formulating actions focused on these points to ultimately result in a decrease in the carbon and water footprint.
As a result, thanks to its connection with innovation through a technology center and with information and communication technologies, the Extremadura tomato agroindustry will be in possession of an application which will enable the development and promotion of quality products environment friendly.