The Confronting Climate Change Initiative (CCC) has completed the 2014 fruit and wine industry carbon emissions benchmark reports. The development of industry benchmarks for the carbon-emissions of each major commodity have been a significant milestone for the CCC project. Against these benchmarks, individual businesses can “sense-check” and evaluate their own results. In this way the collective profile of industries can be developed and their performance tracked over time. Benchmarking, however, relies heavily on credible industry-level reporting as well as supporting the identification of opportunities for improvement and best-practice at business-level.
Fruit and Wine Industry: Big hitters
Let’s look at the big hitters driving carbon emissions in the fruit and wine industry (keeping in mind that fruit farming activities are generally more carbon intensive than post-production activities):
- 90% of South Africa’s electricity generation is through a coal-fired power base (the other 10% is comprised of nuclear and a combination of hydroelectricity and pumped storage schemes). Therefore, at the farm level, grid-supplied electricity consumption is a big hitter, together with nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizer usage and diesel consumption.
- Carbon emissions at the packhouse level are driven by the use of packaging materials (particularly the use of virgin plastics and virgin cardboard materials), followed by electricity consumption through the use of onsite machinery.
- Table grape production (farm) and processing (packhouse) was the most carbon intensive of all commodity groups.
- Citrus (hard) group had the lowest carbon footprint at both farm and pack-house levels. This can be attributed to the lower input requirements (specifically irrigation, synthetic nitrogen and packaging) per kg of citrus fruit in comparison to the other commodity groups.
- Carbon emissions for the stone fruit group are higher than pome fruit in both processing (farm) and packing (packhouse), but emissions from the pome fruit cooling activities (CA Store and cold storage) become higher due to the intensive cooling timeframes and cooling requirements.
- The supply chain views include the logistics legs of the chain and illustrate the potential mapping of emissions across the supply chain – from farm to international receiving port.
Table 1: Summary table of all commodity group results per section of the supply chain (excluding international transport) based on the CCC sample group as at mid-December 2014.
|COMMODITY||SECTION OF SUPPLY CHAIN||kgCO2e/kg fruit|
|Wine grapes (red)||Farm||0.26|
|Wine grapes (white)||Farm||0.32|
CCC coverage continues to grow!
Although the coverage of the benchmark dataset continues to grow over the various commodities, the CCC would like to see even more businesses take part and support this initiative and therefore CCC continues to provide technical support via workshops and answering direct queries via email or telephone. We encourage all businesses to annually complete their carbon emission calculations and submit the data to us for sense-checking as soon as it is completed.
How to reduce my carbon emissions?
The results from the CCC 2011-2014 benchmark form the foundation of a long-term process of industry benchmark development. The 2011-2014 results must therefore be seen in this context – not the end-result but a good indicator of trends. The high-level mitigation options identified during the analysis are summarized below:
- Farm-level mitigation options relate to improved usage of fuel sources (diesel and electricity) and utilizing renewable energy sources where energy usage is highest, such as for irrigation pumping. Case studies have shown that by installing variable speed drives to irrigation pumps, a significant energy saving can be achieved, depending on the original usage requirements and pumping head. In addition, using soil probes to improve the effectiveness of the irrigation will reduce the water wastage and thus energy-related requirements, as well improving crop quality. Finally, installing solar photovoltaic panels as part of the overall farm and winery/packhouse/coldstore energy supply system, where the solar PV panels drive the irrigation pumps during the peak summer periods when irrigation demand is highest and solar energy is available in excess. Given the annually increasing cost of grid electricity combined with the fact that irrigation pumping is the largest energy requirement at farm level, the pay-back period for the initial installation costs of solar PV is becoming more and more feasible. It now makes business sense to go off-grid – if not entirely, then at least for the specific activities that drive the majority of your energy usage.
- Linked to the usage of soil probes, another mitigation opportunity at farm level is to reduce the usage of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which can be achieved through more precise application as and when plants require. As all synthetic fertilisers are fossil-fuel intensive in production, the prices of these inputs will rise over time as the cost of fossil-fuel based energy goes up. The use of alternative, natural products offer an array of benefits in that they increase soil health, which can not only lessen the requirement for synthetic fertilizers, but also improve soil water retention and productivity.
- Post-production cooling activities can be very carbon intensive due to the energy requirements, in particular, CA storage. Mitigation options are therefore related to shifting the energy sources from grid to renewable sources such as solar PV panels, together with improved efficiency measures that will reduce the annual energy costs and thereby improve the associated carbon emissions.The installation of electricity meters is recommended as a starting point so as to better monitor specific equipment and track efficiency over time. The installation of a variable speed drive will enable a more tailored approach to temperature control, and combined with other improved efficiencies, has been shown to reduce energy usage for cooling significantly. A site-specific energy audit can also be conducted to identify particular problem areas within the cooling facilities where slight technology changes such as replaced fans or seals can significantly improve efficiencies and thereby reduce costs. There are several industry funded projects that have been initiated to assist industry members in reducing the costs associated with these audits and it is recommended that members tap in to such valuable resources.
- In terms of packaging, largely the main contributor to carbon intensity at both a packhouse and winery level, mitigation opportunities relate to the type and quantity of virgin packaging material used. It is, however, understood that it is not the packhouses or wineries that decide what packaging material to use, but rather the exporters and retailers that push their specific material requirements back to their suppliers. There are also obvious minimum requirements in terms of degradability, hygiene and protective storage that need to be met in order to keep the fruit fresh and preventing the quality of the wine from deteriorating before it reaches the retailers’ doors. Because of this dynamic, many packhouses don’t consider alternative packaging options as a cost-cutting and emission reduction strategy.
- Wineries however are showing a different trend in terms of packaging. In recent years several wineries have embarked on creative packaging strategies to both reduce the amount of wasted material, increase the cycle of reuse or recycled material and even change the type of material all together, for example from conventional heavy glass to lightweight glass or PET bottles, an option for some short-lived wine products. Such examples illustrate how packaging can provide a unique platform to showcase the environmentally responsible action from both the producer and retailers perspective. It is therefore highlighted as an area for major mitigation potential, and an area where more research at an industry level is required to establish viable alternatives particularly for virgin plastic based and virgin corrugated carton packaging materials.
- Freight options vary considerably in terms of their carbon intensity. Air freight is between six to eight times more carbon intensive than sea freight. Commodity groups utilizing air freight even if just for a small amount of their annual supply will have a much higher carbon footprint than those using sea freight exclusively. Currently the only cost implication of such a choice is in Rand value and is often offset by the high market price received when fruit reaches the market at a critical time. In future, however, carbon emissions may become part of international trade negotiations and more efficient supply chains will be at an advantage relative to those utilizing expensive and carbon-intensive systems.
- Road freight results are directly related to the distance from the port and therefore areas such as Grabouw, Gamtoos and Berg River, which are within closer distance to their relevant port, will have lower road freight carbon footprint results than those further away. Efficient utilisation of full truck loads to minimize the distance travelled per season can reduce the overall carbon intensity of transport and also save in fuel costs.
In conclusion, the Confronting Climate Change initiative provides the platform for the South African fruit and wine industries to improve their understanding and respond to the challenges, threats and uncertainties inherent in climate change. The online carbon calculator, a central feature of the initiative, has been significantly enhanced through 2013-2014 with the development of a robust and increasingly representative benchmark database. The focus of 2015 project year is to further expand the representation of this benchmark to all growers, regions and commodity groups and to add context and guidance around relevant technologies and reduction strategies.