Agribusinesses: Where do we stand with future Water Legislation?

The Western Cape, and South Africa, is in the midst of the worst drought in a long, long time. With much less to go around, responses have included increased monitoring, demand management, and the imposition of restrictions. Still we are far off the mark with an incredibly tough summer ahead. But with increasing variability in […]

Drones and Agriculture 101

A new “buzz” word in agriculture is “drones” (pun intended). But what are they and how do they actually work?  Most importantly, how can they help me, the farmer? A drone is an unmanned aircraft, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)1. If you like a bit of drama you can refer to them […]

Smallholder Agriculture

Smallholder farmers and their participation in global value chains

Recent estimates suggest that there are more than 570 million farms in the world. Of these, more than 475 million are smaller than 2ha, commonly referred to as smallholdings. Even though these smallholder farms only utilise approximately 12% of global agricultural land, smallholder farms are estimated to directly and indirectly support a population of more […]

Fruitlook

Managing your farm with Fruitlook

We all know South African farmers operate within a challenging environment, where the short and long-term viability of an operation entails picking a path through a multitude of production pressures. Some of these include rising input costs; competition for scarce water resources; and the challenges associated with a changing climate. Fruitlook, an online remote-sensing platform, […]

Tree hog

Louis Loubser’s ‘Tree Hog’

Earlier this month I visited Louis Loubser’s farm just outside of Robertson in the Breede Valley. Louis is the man behind the ‘Tree Hog’ – a simple, but extremely effective invention that can bring about considerable reductions in on-farm water and energy use!

Management intensive grazing

The Passion behind ‘Farmer Angus’

Angus McIntosh – the previous London-based finance professional turned livestock farmer. Not a ‘gewone’ farmer, but a razor sharp and enthusiastic farmer that has steadfastly plotted his course against the grain of convention. For those of you that don’t know, Angus is the man behind Spier’s pasture-raised livestock and the ‘Farmer Angus’ name.  

Agroecology

Agroecology – the who’s who

What is agroecology? Agroecology is defined as “the application of ecological concepts to the design and management of sustainable agro-ecosystems” (Silici, 2014). The principles of agroecology are increasingly gaining traction as a means to building agri system sustainability and resilience, reducing dependence on costly chemical inputs, and building productivity at the farm level through the […]

JD Kirsten's recycling collection igloos

JDK’s interesting household recycling initiative!

Arguably the most important step to driving any environmental initiative is to change behaviour. As with recycling, it is simply difficult to increase recycling rates without increasing  the rate at which recyclables are collected at both the household and company levels, requiring a change in behaviour by both you and I. JD Kirsten, realising the […]

Nudging the way to change

‘Nudging’ the way to change

Having recently read the book ‘Nudge’ by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, I became intrigued by the potential for ‘nudge’ solutions to environmental challenges, some of which are described in the book.

SA's Carbon Tax

SA’s draft carbon tax legislation and carbon offset regulations: How will it work?

Subsequent to the ratification of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, we need to prepare to operate in a carbon constrained economy over the medium to long term. This was emphasised by National Treasury in a press release on the 10th of November 2016. A business as usual scenario is no longer an option.

Management intensive grazing

What meat should I be eating?

Informed consumers globally would doubtlessly have asked themselves this question at some stage. Meat and dairy production invariably top the list of production systems when discussing environmental hotspots of agriculture. When dealing with sustainability and livestock, a discussion of whether we should eat meat or not, and if we do which type, is inescapable.

Analysis of Western Cape dam levels

Western Cape dam levels: 15% by April 2017?

Since the winter of 2014, the Western Cape region has been in the midst of a significant and worsening drought. The winter rains of 2015 and 2016 have done little to offer relief, and as of the beginning of November 2016, the City of Cape Town entered into Level 3 Water Restrictions, and the agricultural […]

IT for Agri

IT for Agri – The top apps around

There are a number of freely available mobile and web-based apps that are particularly useful to those operating in South Africa’s agricultural sector. If you haven’t used one of these apps already, we suggest you take a look!

A quick look at the historic Paris Climate Deal that will enter into force on the 4th of November 2016

The Paris Agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is finally committed to a low-carbon future, and it promises to unleash investment and innovation in clean energy on an unprecedented scale.

Aquaculture environmental impacts

Where – and how – was my fish grown?

Chances are you will need to ask this question more and more. Historically, capture fisheries (fish caught in the wild) have been the most prominent source of traded fish. However, capture fisheries volumes have levelled off in the past decade and aquaculture (the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of […]

Confronting Climate Change

A Fresh Look for Confronting Climate Change!

The Confronting Climate Change team is very excited to share their updated website and calculator tool with you. Please do visit the new site HERE and start entering your data on the online calculator tool and let us know whether you find it user-friendly.

What are a Business’s Social Dependencies and Impacts?

In my last post, which you can access here, I examined the throughput of energy and materials that is at the heart of every business (the dark blue horizontal arrow) and the flows from, and to, the environment that must be sustained if the business is to achieve the strategic objective of sustaining “economically viable […]

Odds stacked against SA beekeeping

The odds stacked against SA’s beekeepers

In South Africa, honeybees and their pollination services contribute an estimated R16 billion to the national GDP, of which approximately R10 billion is generated in the Western Cape (Engineering News 2015). With the changing profile of deciduous fruits, increases in vegetable production; and large increases in vegetable seed production and expansion of macadamia nut plantations, […]

SA's Carbon Tax

UPDATE: SA’s Carbon Tax & Offsetting Developments

Since the Draft Carbon Tax Bill was released in November 2015 (see our carbon tax news item  of 11 April 2016), National Treasury has held various stakeholder engagements. Although various issues are now clearer, a number of issues are still being finalised. The next draft Carbon Tax Bill is expected by late August or September this year.  […]

Brexit: South African Agriculture

SA’s Agri Exports: Understanding Brexit

On the 24th of June, 2016, David Cameron announced the surprising results of the UK’s Brexit referendum – the scales were tipped towards leaving the EU, sending global markets into turmoil. The GBP dropped to a 31-year low against the USD, and USD2 trillion were wiped off global markets. The rand slipped by 8% against […]

Water Footprint

Water Footprint: Stone Fruit Project

In my post in April this year, I outlined the two different Water Footprint guidance standards, and explained the blue, green and grey water footprint components. Based on the Water Footprint Network’s (WFN) guidance standard, we developed a data collection and calculation tool in order to streamline the water footprint assessment process. These were piloted […]

Agroecology

What is at the heart of every business?

At the center of the Blue North System Map (see below) is the large dark blue arrow running from left to right – it is the cornerstone of our approach to understanding sustainability and making it relevant for businesses. In this post I will examine this element of our system map, how it can be […]

Sustainable Agriculture, diversification and trade-offs

Sustainable agriculture, diversification and trade-offs

There is general consensus that agriculture can meet the expected future food needs of a growing population, however the grand question is how we achieve this by sustainable means?

South Africa’s water – where are we?

Water is arguably South Africa’s most vital and precious natural resource. It is integral to the survival of human life, the functioning of ecological systems, food and energy production, transportation, waste disposal, and industrial development (1–4). But as human populations grow, consumption patterns change, and economies develop, the pressures on natural water resources continue to […]

What’s in a water footprint?

Freshwater resources – the increasing demand for, and increasing uncertainty of availability, have given rise to strong questions around water risks across agricultural value chains. The concept of water footprinting provides an effective platform from which to address and discuss these questions.

GIS Water Risk Assessment Tool

Blue North Sustainability was engaged by a UK importer to develop a GIS-based water risk assessment tool. The main purpose of the tool is to provide a better understanding of the potential water risks faced by South African fruit farmers within their supply chain.

COP21 Oil Refinery - Is it Enough

SA’s Carbon Tax and the Implications for Fruit and Wine Farmers

The Draft Carbon Tax Bill was released for comment during November 2015.  The Confronting Climate Change (CCC) Initiative has received many questions with regards to the bill and has, in response, developed this summary document based on the information at our disposal at the time of writing. 

Confronting Climate Change

Confronting Climate Change: Project Update

Blue North manages the “Confronting Climate Change” project (or CCC in short) on behalf of the South African Fruit and Wine industries. This project is now in its 8th year and focuses on supporting South African farmers, packhouses and wineries in calculating their carbon footprint.  Here is a short and sharp update of what 2016 […]

Confronting Climate Change

Confronting Climate Change: 2016 Workshop Schedule

There are 3 different types of industry engagements that the Confronting Climate Change project is offering, each with a specific target audience and intended outcome: Technical Workshops; Train-the-Trainer Workshops; and Emerging Farmer Information Sessions. The workshops are presented at a subsidised fee and spaces are limited, therefore booking is essential. Additional workshops can be arranged over […]

Making practical sense of strong sustainability

How do we translate the ideas of Strong Sustainability into concepts that can practically assist and guide business leaders in the running of their businesses?

125 Trillion Reasons!

US$125 trillion per year – that’s US$125 with 12 zero’s! That’s the latest estimate of the global value of ecosystem services that nature provides on an annual basis, estimated by Robert Costanza, a renowned ecological economist, and colleagues. To put this number in perspective, the 2016 global GDP is estimated to reach around US$76 trillion.

Blue-North-Sustainability-Consultancy-Hands-Soil-About

Summary: Is Earth recognised as a finite system in corporate responsibility reporting?

An extensive study by a team of Danish researchers (Bjørn et al. (2016)) highlights the failure of Corporate Responsibility (CR) reporting to translate into tangible changes in business strategy. In Blue North’s context, this reinforces the importance of our approach: informed by ‘strong’ sustainability, our work revolves around the acceptance of absolute biophysical limits.

COP21 Oil Refinery - Is it Enough

COP21: Is it enough?

Last year’s climate change conference, COP21, has widely been heralded a success. But the burning question: is it enough?

Blue-North-Performance-Assessment-&-Monitoring

Development of Sustainability Self-Assessment Tools

Blue North has been commissioned to develop a range of commodity-specific Sustainability self-assessment tools for the UK retailer  J.Sainsbury’s.   The tools, which reflect our experience in supporting farm-level buy-in and engagement in sustainability programs, are designed to serve first and foremost as value-adding management tools for farm owners and managers.

Cape-Agriculutral-Farms

Small-scale mixed farming Carbon Footprint Calculator

The concept of developing a carbon footprint calculator for emerging farmers in the Western Cape is the subject of a Masters research project funded by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WC DoA). The purpose of this tool is to firstly create awareness around climate change and the impact on agriculture, and secondly to prepare […]

CCC-Project

Confronting Climate Change: Workshop Dates

Confronting Climate Change will be hosting a series of technical Industry Benchmark and Train the Trainer workshops throughout the country over the next few months.

The transition to a low-carbon South African economy: a comparison with a German case-study

As a function of its large mineral reserves, South Africa’s carbon-intensive economy has been driven by resource intensive mineral extraction and petroleum and chemicals processing. These industries have long been supported and incentivized by government through the provision of relatively cheap coal-fired generated electricity, taking advantage of South Africa’s extensive coal reserves (Brent et al., […]

Confronting Climate Change – Latest News

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 […]

Project: SCHIP online supply chain management application

SCHIP is an online application developed exclusively for the Chingford Fruit Limited (Chingfords) supply chain, to provide visibility across their supply chain and streamlined integration with other financial and reporting systems. SCHIP has been developed by Sigma Freight, a UK-based software company that specialises in providing solutions to the freight and logistics industry. The SCHIP […]

Cape-Agriculutral-Farms

New Project: Impact of legislation on the Western Cape agricultural sector

Blue North, working in conjunction with DNA Economics, have been contracted by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WC DoA) to assess the agricultural legislative environment in the Western Cape and how conducive this environment is to business.

Carbon Emissions: Where the major global retailers stand

The Confronting Climate Change Initiative (CCC) was launched by the South African wine and fruit sector to enable growers and service providers to manage the risks associated with carbon emissions, relating both to associated environmental impacts and consumer and retailer pressure for emissions accountability. As a result, we were very interested in where the major […]

The South African carbon tax and how it relates to agriculture

The proposed South African carbon tax is outlined in the summary below, followed by a more in-depth breakdown of the tax mechanism and how it relates to agriculture, derived from the Carbon Tax Policy Paper (2013).

Blue North Welcomes New Associates

With the increasing scope of Blue North’s work, we are very pleased to welcome two new associates to the team: Lorren de Kock and Anél Blignaut.

Sustainable Fruit Initiative – Progress Update

Much progress has been made in the development of the Sustainable Fruit Initiative over the last few months. As the Grabouw pilot programme draws to a close, we have begun to engage with commercial farming entities in the Eastern Cape. Here we lay out the structure, processes and insights that have evolved through our engagement […]

Announcement: The Carbon Trust recognises the CCC Carbon Footprinting Tool managed by Blue North.

Blue North is very pleased to announce that the Carbon Trust has recently completed an independent audit of the Carbon Footprinting Tool that forms a key part of the South African Fruit and Wine Industry’s Confronting Climate Change (CCC) Initiative, one of Blue North’s strategic projects in the industry.

Why modern agriculture leads unavoidably to ecological degradation

To the casual observer on a trip through the countryside, the idea that farming inherently degrades the environment may seem counter-intuitive. After all, we escape to the rural parts of the country in order to “return to nature” and experience a gentler and a more environmentally wholesome way of life, particularly when compared to that […]

Sustainable Fruit Initiative – Pilot Programme

WWF-SA is launching a sustainability initiative tailored to the South African fruit sector, and has engaged Blue North Sustainability (Pty) Ltd to assist in its development and implementation. The Sustainable Fruit Initiative (SFI) is focussed on supporting the achievement of environmentally sustainable farming in the fruit industry, and will ultimately become the environmental “pillar” of […]

The evolution of sustainability agendas in global agri supply-chains – David Farrell’s trip to the UK

Visiting the UK and meeting with different people across UK agri supply-chains is always accompanied by discussions around the subject of sustainability – certain concepts and assumptions are affirmed, others challenged, and new perspectives and priorities are brought to the fore. At a minimum, the rapidly evolving and shifting nature of this field is confirmed. […]

Line in the Sand: When will voluntary sustainability strategies form part of business practice?

There is always a line in the sand – that point in time when things change, or a new direction is taken. Much of the work we do at Blue North is related to assisting leading agri-businesses to improve their supply chain efficiencies: making outputs exceed inputs, and reducing waste and environmental impact where possible.

Renewable Energy in the South African Fruit Sector

It is exciting to see the increasing use of renewable energy in the South Africa fruit sector.  With the recent year-on-year increases in the cost of electricity, and further above-inflation increases expected, combined with the massive reduction in the cost of renewable energy solutions, we have now reached the crossover point where renewable energy solutions […]

Blue North Social Media Strategy Launched

Blue North is a South Africa based sustainability consultancy working across the agricultural supply chain, driving the concept of  strong sustainability. We have recently launched a social media strategy. If you are interested in this line of work, and/or would like to follow our work as it progresses please “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page, […]

Sustainable Fruit Supply – where to to focus in developing a sustainability strategy?

These thoughts on the development and implementation of a sustainability strategy in an agricultural supply-chain have been developed in the course of the work Blue North does in the sustainability field.

Energy efficiency and carbon reductions speak the same language

The success of farming is directly linked to levels of productivity. Although productivity and farming are synonymous, the concept of productivity is relevant to any business.

The Ecological Importance of Wetlands

Environmental sustainability at the farm level hinges on the way in which the farm falls within, and interacts with, its surrounding environment. In ecological economics, the farm and its operations are seen as a subset of the environment. The resilience of the farming system is therefore very much dependent on its supporting ecosystems, where these […]

Farm-level Sustainability Measures & Indicators: Assessing Causes or Measuring Effects?

Sustainability “measures and indictors”…or ” scorecards”…or whatever you wish to call the methods and processes to get a quantified grip on the sustainability performance or status of a farm…has become the really big, and rather confused, part of pretty much all sustainable agriculture programs and initiatives. Here are some thoughts on the subject based on […]

Introduction to the Sustainable Fruit Initiative (SFI)

WWF-SA have recently teamed up with Blue North on an exciting project to develop the Sustainable Fruit Initiative (SFI). The SFI is a sustainability initiative tailored to the South African fruit sector, intended to drive and inspire change from conventional farming practices, to those which will hopefully build greater system resilience in the future.

Cool Seal SA

WWF

FSA

FPEF

Core Fruit

Confronting Climate Change

Nano Bubble Technologies

Fruit for the Future

From the Chingford Fruit October Publication – South African consultancy Blue North specialises in transforming agricultural supply chains, using its sound knowledge base and proven expertise to deliver practical, long-lasting improvements at ground level   Volatile prices, unpredictable weather patterns and surging demand from emerging economies are combining to threaten food security across the globe, putting farmers under more pressure than […]

Graduate School

Fruitgro

Flo-cert

Farmsecure

Colors

Chingford

University of Cambridge

Confronting Climate Change

Over the past three months I have been totally emerged in the Fruit & Wine industry’s carbon footprinting project called “Confronting Climate Change” or CCC in short (Blue North is the appointed project managers for Phase 2 of this project).  It has been very rewarding to work hard on the envisaged solution for Phase 2 […]

Insights guiding our engagement with Chingford fruit

Chingford Fruit (CFL) is now our largest single client and they have been able to “plug and play” our strengths and capabilities in a very exciting way.   CFL is a large supplier to the Sainsbury’s retail chain (JS) in the UK. They were under pressure from JS to help them deliver products that were […]