FruitLook Case Study, pome fruit producer from Villiersdorp

FruitLook Case Study: Lochlo Farm

The FruitLook Team recently sat down with Hendrik Schoeman, a pome fruit producer from Lochlo Farm in the Villiersdorp area of the Western Cape province, to learn more about how FruitLook supports him in farming more efficiently.
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Savouring Sustainability: Exploring Stellenbosch Wineries with a Focus on Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship

Amidst the hills and valleys of South Africa’s Western Cape, Stellenbosch beckons wine enthusiasts with its history, culture, and unparalleled natural beauty. Beyond its renowned wines and picturesque landscapes, Stellenbosch has joined the conversation on sustainability and climate change. Embarking on a tour of Stellenbosch wineries has now evolved to not only showcase the expert art of winemaking but also winemaking’s potential for sustainable practices and interventions.

Stellenbosch’s wine industry is deeply rooted in reverence for, and understanding of, the land that has been carefully cultivated over generations. Many wineries in the region have adapted and embraced sustainable farming practices, recognizing that the health of the vineyard and soil is intrinsically linked to the health of the ecosystem. Winemaking across the globe has started to recognise its impact and shift to more sustainable practices.

Wine tours provide a firsthand opportunity to witness these sustainable practices in action. As you wander through the vineyards, guided by passionate winemakers and viticulturists, you gain insight into the delicate balance between agriculture and environmental preservation. Cover crops, composting, and natural pest management techniques are just a few of the strategies employed to minimize environmental impact and enhance soil health.

Sustainability, however, is a concept that extends beyond the vineyard and into every aspect of the winemaking process. Sustainability “involves everything you do on the farm, including economics, environmental impacts of everything done on the farm and all aspects of human resources, including not only you and your family but your employees and the surrounding community”. From energy-efficient cellar operations to eco-friendly packaging solutions, wineries in Stellenbosch are continuously striving to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace a more holistic approach to wine production. By prioritizing sustainability, these wineries not only safeguard the environment but also ensure the longevity and resilience of the wine industry for generations to come. Furthermore, many wineries have implemented biodiversity conservation programs, creating havens for native flora and fauna amidst the rows of vines. These initiatives not only enhance the ecological diversity of the region but also contribute to the overall health and vitality of the vineyard ecosystem.

One such winery that exemplifies this commitment to sustainability is Fairview Wines. Last month the Blue North team visited them and was guided through their winery and the inner workings of their processes. The team was able to understand the complexities of winemaking and see the potential for wineries to incorporate sustainability principles into their processes in a multitude of ways.

Fairview is a wine farm and winery, and the farm produces its own range of cheeses. Our team was struck by the multi-faceted and holistic nature of the Fairview farm. The farm is made up of vineyards for winemaking and has chickens and goats, which are used for making the cheeses. They also produce dairy-free cheese and ice cream. The animals are fed lucerne, which is grown on the land. In fact, everything produced by the farm is cultivated on the land. The main focus of the farm is the wine; however, different production methodologies are incorporated into each decision in order to produce different products.

When it comes to producing wine there is huge effort and energy channelled into each bottle. Harvest is dependent on a number of environmental factors; therefore, meticulous planning is required for when it becomes time to harvest the grapes. Fairview makes use of several different methodologies for their harvest. Harvesting is done early in the morning or at night to ensure that the grapes are not exposed to harsh sunlight and heat. The farm also has an onsite laboratory to test the quality and different components throughout its process of becoming wine.

Fairview’s awareness of sustainability and environmental impact is apparent. In the process of wine-making grape skins are discarded, however, Fairview utilises the skins to make fertiliser that is used on the farm. The farm is conscious about its waste management and all organic waste is composted and re-incorporated back into the farm. This is alongside a comprehensive recycling and sorting system. Another sustainability initiative that the farm is in the process of implementing is a machine for the harvesting of grapes. This will allow for more time to harvest at night, ensuring cool temperatures during harvest. This, in turn, lowers the farm’s carbon footprint, which Fairview calculates using CCC’s online tool, as the cooling of the grapes further along the wine-making process is no longer necessary. The cooling process is carbon-intensive and makes excessive use of electricity, therefore, this has a significant impact on the farm’s carbon emissions.

What is important to note here, and another factor the Blue North team took away from the experience, was Fairview’s emphasis on job creation and social sustainability. Each sector of the farm and wine-making process is focused on job creation. An example of this is a local laundry business, which is run by the staff for the staff and has now expanded to clients off the farm.

There are always new and different challenges within the agricultural sector, especially the wine-making industry. The industry has recently encountered unique challenges, and input costs have significantly increased. People are tending towards cheaper wines as these input costs are increasing. Fairview has accepted this challenge; producing wine that is at a low price despite the exceptionally high input costs, and without compromising quality.

Fairview sets a positive example for wineries in the region and beyond. Sustainability transforms from a buzzword to a word of substance and impact at Fairview, and this extends to a multitude of wineries in Stellenbosch and the broader region. From the vineyard to the cellar, the tasting room to the restaurant, sustainability has begun to permeate every aspect of the wine experience, and it is about time. This transformation is vital in the current climate context and, therefore, worth celebrating. So, raise a glass to the future of wine, where sustainability and agriculture converge to create a holistic world of flavour, complexity, and harmony.

Harvest at Fairview

Harvest at Fairview Grapes Fairview's Cellar

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BN Team members from the left: Sally Fraser, Nelise Olivier, Amber Paulse

People working together to grow sustainability

Growth and Blue North

February is our financial year-end, and much of our time in the past weeks has been focused on wrapping up projects and planning for the new year. While we are in the business of sustainability, we are still in the business of being a business! And being a viable business almost unavoidably brings up questions of how we grow.

This is interesting as, for those of you who have been through some of my workshops or been exposed to my thinking, I challenge the concept of “growth” and go to lengths to show how irreconcilable growth and sustainability are… ”you cannot grow exponentially on a finite resource base”!

So, what’s this about? Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? I think the answer to this potential criticism lies in developing a more complete understanding of growth. Our industrial thinking understands growth narrowly in quantitative terms – more energy, more materials…more stuff! This narrow view is what lies at the heart of our sustainability challenge and why we are fundamentally exceeding our “carrying capacity”.

When we look at natural systems for cues (or life in more general terms), we see growth in much more nuanced ways. We see, in fact, that growth IS life! Everything goes through phases of growth, individuals grow (think of an acorn becoming a giant Oak tree), and complex ecosystems, like the kelp forests we have along our southern coastline, grow.

The key difference is that their growth is both in physical/material terms… AND in qualitative terms. The material growth is always for a phase, ultimately a maximum physical throughput and size being reached. But this does not stop the system continue to develop in extraordinary and seemingly unlimited ways. An example of this qualitative growth is the explosion of information in the system, information captured in the genetic diversity of all the life active within the system. Seeing growth in quantitative and qualitative terms is key to reconciling the growth/sustainability paradox.

But before I get too high on my hobby horse, how does this relate to my opening comments? The short answer is that at Blue North we understand that we need to expand our team in order to serve a growing client base, but that, while we grow quantitatively (more people), our real reach and impact is via our online solutions. In other words, the real growth we are experiencing in Blue North is enabled by our technologies and thus is qualitative in nature. Our platforms are enabling us to make more connections, build more relationships, challenge more mindsets, inspire more people and deliver more on-the-ground change. This is qualitative growth!

Our team has a great mix of agriculturalists, ecologists, and engineers. Collectively we apply this diverse set of skills and knowledge to develop new thinking and new solutions. But the kicker is that we work very intentionally to bring this knowledge to bear via our online tools. This is where the leverage is, this is where the real growth – the qualitative kind – is happening.

This year we are budgeting to bring in at least three additional people into our client-facing teams and two into our IT team. We are also hard at work figuring out how we streamline our online offering to make it easier for clients to engage, select what’s valuable to them and, thus, expand our user base, reach and impact.

An exciting year of growth – of the right kind – lies ahead!

Regenerative Agriculture: Shifting Food Systems

Regenerative agriculture represents a major opportunity to improve our food system and tackle climate change. Cropping up in the sustainability plans of big food companies such as Nestle, Unilever, and Danone. A new approach rooted in old ways to solve future problems.  

”Individual action is not enough to create the transformational change needed across the food sector, collective action is the only way to move the industry forward. This ensures that all actors, including competitors, are moving forward in the same direction”. – Bertrand Swiderski, Chief Sustainability Officer at Carrefour 

What is Regenerative Agriculture?   

Regenerative agriculture is defined through a variety of practices rather than by a set term. Broadly speaking “regenerative” refers to a set of practices that aim to promote soil health and reduce soil disturbance.  

Regenerative agriculture sets itself apart from conventional farming by adopting a holistic approach that prioritizes overall success across various performance indicators, as opposed to solely maximizing production. This method recognizes the interconnectedness of ecological systems and aims to enhance them.  Some definitions focus on the processes involved in farming – from the use of cover crops to the integration of livestock within crop cycles and the reduction in tillage – while others focus on outputs – such as restoring carbon content in the soil and increasing biodiversity.  

“Regenerative” methods aim to reverse the trend set by conventional farming. Current conventional agriculture follows a degenerative approach, which makes use of processes that result in the degeneration of the soil organic matter over time.  

The current issues it addresses 

Agriculture represents a major leverage point in the fight against climate change. Agricultural land covers 38% of the land on our planet and utilises 70% of freshwater resources. It employs millions of people and the food security produced is the foundation upon which we have been able to exponentially advance. 

However, concern is mounting over the negative impacts of the current farming system. It is estimated that current “conventional farming” applied globally and characterised as “intensive” accounts for one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions annually and results in the loss of 24bn tonnes of topsoil each year.  

Furthermore, intensive agriculture has significantly reduced natural biodiversity and continues destroying global ecosystem resilience. The European Knowledge and Innovation community estimates that we have a total of 60 quality harvests remaining before the “complete compromise” of our agricultural system.  

Globally consumers are becoming more concerned with the negative picture portrayed by climate science. Consumers want to take responsibility for their impact on the environment. Labels advertising “grass-fed”, “organic” and “free-range” have risen in popularity as informed consumers become more ethical in their decision-making. However, because of “greenwashing” consumers are demanding that retailers go beyond labelling and start to address the problems associated with the system head-on, rather than providing solutions to a few negative symptoms of the food system. 

The prevailing conventional approach to agriculture is characterised by an industrial-productive mindset. This mindset refers to techniques that prioritise the maximisation of output and efficiency across the farm. Essentially farmers try to retain or increase their yield whilst minimising financial costs. This type of farming is characterised by large-scale production, the standardisation of practices and reliance on chemical inputs.  

Regenerative agriculture represents an opportunity to improve upon conventional agriculture and reduce the degradation associated with food production.  

How it works  

Farming through regenerative methods is guided through principles, these help to define processes that then determine practices aimed at establishing a range of ecological relationships across the farm. No Till Growers, an online educational advisory group recommends: Keeping the soil covered as much as possible, keeping the soil planted and planted diversly as much as possible, disturbing the soil as little as possible, and using a diversity of life-promoting inputs such as compost or animals. 

Essentially, Regenerative Agriculture is not a tick-boxing exercise to gain accreditation. There is no prescriptive method to follow. It is a mindset to be applied across farming. Some approaches might work within one agricultural system and not work within another. This is because, unlike traditional methods, the practices that work best depend significantly on the land that is being worked. This is not necessarily the case in conventional Degenerative farming.  

Mark Dunro, an agri-food managing partner of venture capital group “Rockstart” describes regenerative farming as a philosophy, “treating the soil as something that is alive rather than as a blank canvas.” Degenerative practices create these “canvases” using synthetic agrochemicals like fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides. This allows the farmer to manipulate the composition of the soil from which they produce. Regenerative farming replaces chemical inputs and rather makes use of a diverse range of ecological factors to restore the nutrients in the soil naturally. Focusing on developing natural relationships to foster a growth medium that is more resilient and independent of chemicals.  

Farming requires reciprocity: when something is taken from the soil it must be replaced to avoid exhausting natural resources. Most other industries are extractive, when a widget is created, one is not required to replace the resource that created it.  A farmer’s biggest financial concern is balancing the price of the inputs required to achieve reciprocity. Synthetic agrochemicals are historically less risky and more affordable in the short term, motivating farmers to continue with what is conventional. Regenerative farming requires a long-term mindset that understands the value of honouring the efficiency of natural systems.  

Growing forward…   

Now, farmers, retailers, and consumers need to work together to accelerate the sustainability of our food system. Bertrand Swiderski, Chief Sustainability Officer at Carrefour, says it is important to adopt a collaborative approach across all stakeholders within the food value chain. Consumer demand and policymakers are the key to shifting food producers towards more sustainable practices. Regenerative agriculture is not the only solution, but it offers a clear route towards an environmentally positive future for generations to come.   

Sustainability Goals for 2024

With the start of a new year, new goals and resolutions are being set. Everyone is ready to try new things, start new commitments and improve themselves. A survey done by Forbes Health (2024), with 1000 participants, showed that the most common goals for the new 2024 year are the following: improved fitness (48%), improved finances (38%), improved mental health (36%), weight loss (34%) and an improved diet (32%). What do all these goals have in common? If these goals were achieved during 2024, would society, the economy or the environment be empowered more than it was in 2023?

Although personal health and fulfilment are very important, this new year holds exciting opportunities to contribute more towards a sustainable future. Incorporating sustainable practices into your business or home not only aids in the protection of the natural environment but also holds a lot of benefits for your society, businesses and personal growth.

As businesses increasingly adopt sustainable practices, the ripple effect of positive change extends beyond the confines of boardrooms. While the incorporation of eco-friendly measures might appear as an upfront investment, the long-term dividends are undeniable. Initiatives like waste reduction, enhanced insulation, energy-efficient lighting, and alternative heating/cooling systems not only contribute to environmental preservation but also result in substantial cost savings over time (Malakjan, 2022). Beyond financial gains, these changes foster an improved workplace atmosphere, elevating employee comfort, morale, and overall productivity. Even for smaller enterprises, prioritizing sustainability, albeit in smaller steps, not only cultivates a positive brand reputation but also provides a competitive edge in a market increasingly shaped by ethical and sustainable values (Laverns, 2021).

As we embark on the journey towards a sustainable future, it’s crucial to recognize that the impact of individual choices extends beyond businesses into the fabric of society. Social sustainability encompasses actions and behaviours that contribute to the well-being of communities, fostering a harmonious coexistence. Choosing sustainable options, such as supporting local businesses, participating in community initiatives, and advocating for social equality, creates a positive societal ripple effect (Econation, 2022). A socially sustainable approach involves building connections, promoting inclusivity, and prioritizing the welfare of all members of our global community. As individuals engage in these initiatives, they not only contribute to the broader societal good but also experience personal growth, enhanced empathy, and a deeper sense of purpose – ultimately leading to a happier and more fulfilled way of living (Sivaraman, 2020).

In the pursuit of New Year resolutions, let us consider a paradigm shift that goes beyond personal ambitions. Embracing sustainability not only elevates individual well-being but also forms the cornerstone of a thriving society and economy. By incorporating eco-conscious practices within businesses and actively participating in socially sustainable endeavours, individuals become catalysts for positive change.

 

 

References:

Econation. (2022). The Benefits of Sustainability. https://econation.one/blog/the-benefits-of-sustainability/

ForbesHealth. (2023, October). New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2024. https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics/#:~:text=years%20or%20more.-,Most%20Common%20New%20Year%27s%20Resolutions,Improved%20mental%20health%20(36%25)

Lavers, G. (2021). Going green: What it means and how small businesses benefit. https://www.sage.com/en-gb/blog/going-green-small-businesses-benefit/

Malakjan, T. (2022). The benefits of becoming a sustainable business. https://www.europelanguagejobs.com/blog/benfits-of-becoming-a-sustainable-business

McBride Sustainability. (2023). The Social Side of Sustainability: Making a Positive Impact on Society. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/social-side-sustainability-making-positive-impact/

Sivaraman, A. (2020). Five Things You Need to Know About Social Sustainability and Inclusion. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2020/09/02/five-things-about-social-sustainability-and-inclusion

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental Case Study: T&G Global – New Zealand

Worldwide Fruit Limited (WFL) is investing in environmental sustainability across its supply base. As part of their commitment, they are presenting a series of case studies from supplying farms. These case studies aim to raise awareness of the challenges that WFL’s growers deal with on a daily basis, the solutions implemented to overcome these challenges, and the ongoing good management practices growers have implemented, as well as plans for improving sustainability into the future.

This case study presents T&G Global, which is based out of New Zealand. T&G owns 50% of WFL, providing them with rights to a number of pip fruit varieties, including Envy™ and JAZZ™. T&G is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and its majority shareholder is BayWa Global Produce.

To view the full document please click on the image below:

We are hiring: LCA/Carbon Footprint Consultant

Blue North Sustainability is a purpose-driven consulting practice focused on agriculture and the food system. We have an established position supporting farmers, exporters, importers, and retailers across international agricultural and food supply chains in the development and implementation of strategies and programs of change aimed at achieving lasting sustainability outcomes. Blue North runs a range of consulting projects as well as a portfolio of online applications that directly support proactive management of sustainability-related risks on farms and across supply chains. We are a team of passionate sustainability practitioners committed to inspiring and supporting the deep change required to ensure their farming and food systems are truly sustainable. If this aligns with your passions and interests, please read further.

Job Description: 

  • Delivery of our various CF & LCA consulting projects and products
  • Building CF, LCA and carbon sequestration models and data collection tools
  • Interpreting and integrating the latest CF, LCA and sequestration/removal protocols and standards
  • Sense-checking client CF & LCA data
  • Project management
  • Client engagement
  • Undertaking desk and field research in the relevant fields
  • Developing bespoke emissions and sequestration calculation tools & solutions; and
  • Report writing

Qualifications: 

  • A genuine passion for sustainability with an appropriate level of understanding and knowledge of carbon emissions measurement, life cycle assessment, carbon sequestration/removals, carbon emissions reporting and the broader climate change debate.
  • Undergraduate or post-graduate degree in Engineering (Chemical, Industrial or similar).
  • Some work experience will be an advantage.
  • Strong analytical and numerical skills.
  • Ability to research, interpret and apply detailed CF, LCA and sequestration methodologies and protocols.
  • Work experience with the GHG Protocol Corporate standard will be an advantage.
  • The ability to work with LCA software such as OpenLCA and SimaPro will be an advantage.
  • Ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team environment with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Ability to present results/recommendations to individuals & groups.
  • Ability to build positive relationships – particularly with farmers.
  • Confidence in engaging potential and current clients via phone or virtual meetings.
  • Good proficiency in Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
  • Excellent English verbal & written skills. Afrikaans will be an advantage.
  • Drive to satisfy clients, conscientious, willing to go the extra mile.
  • Adaptable, excellent time management and prioritisation skills.
  • Ability to work independently, self-starter and initiative-taker.
  • Based in Stellenbosch region or surrounds.
  • Have a valid SA driver’s license and own transport.

How to Apply: 

  • Email your comprehensive CV to Nine Broodryk at  exceedhr@exceed.co.za. 
  • We reserve the right to only conduct interviews with candidates of choice. 
  • Applicants who have not received feedback within 30 days from the closing date must please accept their application as unsuccessful. 

Table Grape Grower Shares Feedback on Grape Compass

Grape Compass has been rolled out to wine-grape growers in the Western Cape of South Africa since 2021. However, the application can also be beneficial for table grape production. Therefore, through user trials, the Grape Compass Team set out to prove the app’s value for table grapes in the Western Cape at the start of the 2023/2024 season.

JP Nel, General Manager for Babirwa Fruit Exports shares some valuable insights from his experience trialling Grape Compass here.

Embracing a Sustainable Festive Season

“In the grand symphony of existence, let our celebrations be harmonious with nature, for in cherishing our planet, we find the truest joy.”- Sir David Attenborough

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but let’s not deck the halls with excess and forget about a sustainable future! Let’s sprinkle some sustainable magic into our celebrations so that future generations can celebrate for years to come. Here are some fun ideas to keep your celebrations ‘greener’ than the Grinch himself!

Mindful Gifting:

Ditch the capitalist propaganda of mass-produced goodies and opt for locally sourced or handmade treasures that sleigh the sustainability game! Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Here are a few gift ideas:

  1. Find some unique gifts at a local market.
  2. Make a charitable donation in their name.
  3. Local food and wine.
  4. DIY gifts, for example, homemade foods.
  5. Potted plants, succulents, or seeds for flowers or herbs.

Eco-Friendly Decorations:

Reusable ornaments and DIY projects with recycled materials add a personal touch to your festive ambience and will have you crafting your way to a sustainable future. Avoid single-use plastics and find decorations that can be reused. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Paper ornaments such as origami.
  2. Repurpose glass jars into lanterns by placing LED candles inside.
  3. Use an invasive tree species or driftwood for the Christmas tree.
  4. Create seed bombs by mixing clay, soil, and wildflower seeds. Shape them into festive ornaments. After the holidays, plant them to grow wildflowers.

Conscious Consumption:

Turn your feast into a sustaina-feast! Instead of imported turkey or a foreign ham, find locally sourced foods. A fun idea could be to spice up the Christmas menu with some local, traditional dishes. Here are some ideas:

  1. Mielie bread
  2. Lamb
  3. Bobotie
  4. Umncushu (Samp, Beans, and Peanuts)
  5. Malva pudding

Follow these links for recipes and more ideas:

Leftover gifting:

Leftovers are the gift that keeps giving, so get creative with your Christmas meal remixes! Let it be a pie, ham sandwich, or salad get creative. Some more adventures using leftover ingredients include smoothies with fruit, hashbrowns from potatoes, and pasta dishes with leftover meat. The sky is the limit so get creative and have fun with it! Being in the Christmas spirit we can also acquire that warm feeling inside by sharing.

Energy-Efficient Celebrations:

Everyone loves the twinkling Christmas lights, but how can we make this more sustainable?

  1. Light up your holiday nights with LED lights that shine brighter than Rudolph’s nose! Maybe it’s time to replace those ancient filament lightbulbs.
  2. Light up your holidays with the power of the sun! Especially with load shedding being more common, going solar means you can enjoy reliable energy, reduced bills, and a cleaner planet.

Sustainable Wrapping:

We all enjoy the excitement of opening the Christmas wrapping to reveal our gifts underneath. Wrap it up, eco-style! Fabric wraps, newspapers, or even maps for a gift presentation are an interesting way to make a gift stand out.

Carbon-Neutral Celebrations:

Spread holiday cheer without spreading carbon emissions. This year, choose a carbon offset initiative to counter your environmental impact and celebrate responsibly.

  1. Plant trees or pick up rubbish in the area—another great way to get in a feel-good spirit.
  2. Invest in renewable energy projects to offset your festive footprints such as reforestation initiatives or natural environment protection initiatives.
  3. Find a climate cause that is close to home. This could be funding an endangered ecosystem or species, such as protecting the penguins or penguin habitats.

Thoughtful Travel:

When it comes to getting there, we aren’t all as fortunate as Santa with his environmentally friendly sleigh! And because we can’t teleport to our families and loved ones we must think about our means of transportation and the impact they have. Here are some ways to reduce travelling emissions:

  1. Carpool so that you get to know your holiday friends better.
  2. Use public transport.
  3. Ask yourself, is Christmas really about the destination or about the people that you are spending the holidays with?
  4. If all else fails, you can offset your travel carbon.

 

Ultimately, we all must try to find ways to make our lives eco-friendly and take that challenge with positivity and a growth mindset. Reading this article is a good start!

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

FruitLook Case Study: Supporting Efficient Citrus Production within a Challenging Industry

South Africa is the world’s second-largest citrus exporter, contributing 10% of global citrus exports. External regulations on citrus exports, South Africa’s logistics crisis, the rising input costs for citrus production, as well as extreme climatic events intensified by climate change, are increasing the pressure on the citrus industry of South Africa. It is therefore very important for citrus producers to farm as efficiently as possible with the resources available – making informed decisions on irrigation, fertiliser application and crop management. FruitLook helps citrus farmers achieve these goals to mitigate the effects of the pressing problems facing the citrus industry.

Read the full case study here