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Sustainable practices growing in North American produce industry

Inside the SunFed warehouse in Rio Rico, pallets of squash and zucchini packed in hi-tech plastic bags are stacked along the walls, controls emit ambient ozone and stabilize the temperature and solar panels collect energy to power the lights and fans. Each of these elements are part of the company’s efforts to become more efficient and reduce the amount of food, energy and other materials that go to waste.

“SunFed has been trying to find ways to reduce waste since its inception back in 1994,” said Matt Mandel, the company’s chief operating officer. “All waste has a cost associated with it, and trying to minimize that waste makes economic sense to a business as well as making great sense for the environment.”

SunFed is one of many local produce companies that have invested in environmentally sustainable practices. The trend comes in part out of a sense of social and environmental responsibility, but also because it is beneficial to their bottom line. That mindset is growing within the industry, making sustainability increasingly part of mainstream business practices, said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

One of the most outwardly visible measures being taken locally are large blue solar arrays shimmering on the tops of warehouses or providing shaded parking while also collecting the sun’s rays and converting them into energy that’s used to power the buildings. Using solar energy reduces a company’s reliance on electricity from power companies, lowering both bills and emissions.

But there are also less obvious changes happening in the process of growing, shipping and distributing produce that lead to less shrinkage, greater efficiency and less damage to the environment. Some are as simple as switching to LED lighting, Jungmeyer said.

Read more at Nogales International

Publication date: 5/19/2017

 


 

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