What is conservation agriculture? How is it important for both industry and individual farmers? To answer these questions and better understand the importance of conservation agriculture within the grains industry, we spoke to Dr Hendrik Smith, the Conservation Agriculture Facilitator for Grain SA. What is conservation agriculture in the grains industry and why is it important? […]
What are the attributes of a really good farmer? Would they include a penchant for order and neatness? A single-minded focus on efficiency and yield maximization? A bullet-proof resolve in the face of risk? What about drive for expansion and scale or technical proficiency? While some or all of these may currently inform our rating […]
For water-scarce countries like South Africa, irrigation is critical, and with the majority of electricity being carbon emission intense, irrigation is an important contributor to a farm’s carbon footprint. Indeed, according to Confronting Climate Change industry benchmark reports, electricity consumption for irrigation is the largest source of farm-level carbon emissions. Therefore, improving water management on farms […]
The Second Draft Carbon Tax Bill (National Treasury, 2017) was published on 15 December 2017 following an extensive consultative process around the First Carbon Tax Bill (National Treasury, 2015). It is expected that the Revised Second Draft Carbon Tax Bill will be tabled in parliament in mid-2018, following the due consultative processes. Whilst the core […]
Blue North is increasingly involved in undertaking various types of program and project evaluations within the agricultural, natural resource management and rural development space. But just where does the need for understanding project impact and performance stem from? Although many programs are obliged to undertake evaluations at different stages of project design, implementation and upon […]
Driven by the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) through anthropogenic (human) activities, the planet’s climate is changing. To limit the impact of a changing climate on the planet’s future, global GHG emissions need to be reduced as much as possible. This is a global challenge, to which we all need to contribute! Carbon, or climate […]
Calculating and understanding your carbon footprint has become generally accepted practice. Organisations use carbon footprinting to identify greenhouse gas hotspots, understand the use of expensive inputs like diesel, electricity and fertilisers and to communicate their sustainability credentials. Once you know and understand your carbon footprint you can set targets to reduce it. Unfortunately few businesses […]
To effectively realise and respond to the opportunities and challenges posed by climate change the Confronting Climate Change (CCC) Project was started in 2009 as a strategic cross-industry initiative aimed at supporting the South African fruit and wine sectors’ efforts. Besides provision of a freely available on-line carbon emissions calculator, the CCC initiative promotes technical […]
In South Africa and globally there is increasing pressure from retailers and consumers for the disclosure of the embodied carbon of the products that they purchase. It is important for South African fruit and wine producers to comply with the market requirements to ensure market retention. It is furthermore important to measure and manage your […]
One just has to reflect on the anxiety evoked by the word “recession” to confirm how strongly we associate the concepts of “growth” with our collective and individual well-being. Understandably then, anything that seeks to limit growth is, almost by default, resisted. Sustainability, when honestly and correctly framed, lays bare the inherent conflict between our […]
Confronting Climate Change has for a number of years provided a freely available carbon calculator tool. Apart from supporting the fruit-and wine industries of South Africa with the use of the tool through training opportunities and direct support, we would also like to assist the users of the tool to move forward from the measurement […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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!
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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!
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.
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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, […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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?
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 […]
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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?
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.
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.
Last year’s climate change conference, COP21, has widely been heralded a success. But the burning question: is it enough?
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.
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 […]
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.
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., […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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 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).
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.
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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.
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 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, […]
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]