The Packhouse Action Group (PAG) was initiated to serve the pome fruit industry in South Africa, conducting projects that benefit packhouses. The initiative falls under the auspices of the Deciduous Fruit Growers Association, HORTGRO, and aims at stimulating innovation, testing new innovations, identifying strategic priority areas and as an industry communication forum for producers, exporters and other industry stakeholders.
In 2017, Blue North Sustainability was contracted by the PAG to conduct a study on the water risks faced by pome fruit packhouse and cold storage operations. The objectives of the study included the identification of key water-related risks; a water consumption benchmark study to highlight areas where packhouses can save water; developing a methodology for the identification and management of water-related risks for pome fruit packhouse and cold storage operations; and to encourage industry knowledge sharing.
In 2019 the PAG approved a second phase for this project, where the objectives were to replicate the water use benchmarking study undertaken in the first phase of the project, to prove a year-on-year comparison of water use in packhouse and cold storage operations and to collect data around the water management practices.
A third phase of the project, based on the 2019 data collection year, was completed in 2020. The same objectives of the second phase applied, with the addition of more packhouses and more detailed data collected around the water management practices.
Blue North serves as the project manager of the Water Benchmarking project, engaging with existing participants and gaining participation from additional packhouses, development of the data collection tool, providing training and support in the data collection process, sense checking datasets, calculating benchmarks, compiling the final reports and providing feedback to packhouses.
Armed with the valuable insights provided by the PAG Water Benchmarking Project, packhouse managers have a heightened understanding of where, for what purpose and how much water is being used in their operations and are better equipped to measure, manage, and improve the use-efficiency of this critical resource. A fourth phase of the project is planned to commence in the second half of 2021.