“We have seen a remarkable decrease in the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers”

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In an interview with Rusen Kumar from India CSR, Debadatta Baxi, Regional Director, HR – India, Korea, South East Asia & Taiwan at McCain Food shared facts about McCain’s Smart and Sustainable Farming pillar – initiatives taken, impact achieved so far, and next steps. Since 1998 McCain has been engaged in agricultural research and development and the development of the frozen food market in India and the countries of the subcontinent. With sustainability in mind, the company has made concerted efforts to improve agricultural resource efficiency and adapt to climate change in India. McCain is committed to planet-friendly food while building a resilient future and fulfilling its environmental commitments. Excerpts from an interview:

What are the different initiatives you are taking to ensure smart and sustainable agriculture at McCain?

For nearly 22 years, McCain India has worked to incorporate sustainable business practices into all of its operations, from farm to table – with the goal of delivering environmentally friendly food to our consumers. To support the goals of sustainable, climate-friendly and productive agriculture, McCain has made concerted efforts to improve the resource efficiency of agriculture and adapt to climate change.

We continue to strive to improve the sustainability of our products, with an emphasis on creating a more sustainable approach to growing potatoes. Our innovative cultivation techniques aim to improve the efficiency of agricultural resources by working with farmers on water use and educating farmers on various farming practices such as regenerative agriculture.

In India our ‘Smart Farming Program ‘ extends from Gujarat to Lahaul-Spiti, Punjab and Rajasthan and we work with over 1000 Farmers. Currently, more than 1/3 of our contract volume of potatoes is grown under the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program. The farmers affiliated with McCain Foods are growing this crop under drip and sprinkler irrigation with the general vision of growing and distributing potatoes for customers without disrupting the biodiversity of the area. During the pandemic, we also accelerated digital management of agriculture, which has enabled us to remotely ensure continuity of supply and income for our farmers.

We have also seen a remarkable reduction in the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers by farmers. 14% of our breeders / farmers are under 35 years old and all of our breeders have been by the McCain team for over more than 1,250 hours of training in 2020. With sustained efforts, 56% of the contracted potato volume is certified according to Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). In addition, we have accelerated our efforts towards regenerative agriculture, an ecosystem-based approach to agriculture that aims to increase farmer resilience by improving soil health and protecting biodiversity to improve yields, while reducing reliance on synthetic inputs to reduce.

We are proud to say that 100% of our existing breeders Use sustainable water practices to ensure water efficiency, which produces better quality potatoes without polluting the area’s air, water and soil.

Please tell us more about Resource Efficient Operations in relation to agriculture.

We understand the importance of farms, farmers, communities and the whole world. We believe in long-term partnerships and have therefore worked with several farming families for three generations. Over the generations, the partnership between McCain Foods and the farmers has grown to around 3,500 farmers around the world that almost reap 6.8 million tons Potatoes every year.

In 2006 we also started to equip our contract farms in Punjab with drip / sprinkler systems. In 2009, 100% of the contract areas in Gujarat were watered with sprinklers. To repeat this practice in Punjab, we organized a team of 10 contract seed farmers from Gujarat to visit the state and demonstrate the new growing techniques. To further promote the sprinkler irrigation system, McCain also stated incentives for growers to motivate them to invest in the technology. Through innovative practices, we have optimized operations in agriculture through a significant reduction in pesticide and fertilizer use and efficient water use through drip irrigation. By using drip water technology, we have achieved a 14% reduction in the intensity of water use in our growth regions. We strive for water efficiency and optimization through continuous monitoring and modernization of our existing systems in order to achieve our global goal of improving water use efficiency by 15% by 2030.

We also encourage the use of renewable energies when we work with cold store partners to switch from conventional to renewable energy sources. We have also seen a 2% per tonne reduction in CO2 emissions by effectively reducing the emissions caused by transportation from the field to our plants.

Our holistic agricultural practice applied in regenerative agriculture aims to improve soil health and reverse climate change by expanding biodiversity, improving the water cycle, increasing the organic matter in the soil structure, and releasing carbon from the atmosphere into the Soil transfers. This increases the amount of arable land, which results in a healthier and better food system.

Do you explain the concept of “farms of the future” and the initiatives you take as part of them?

McCain’s global commitment to regenerative agriculture that promotes biodiversity, promotes more plant cover in fields year-round, minimizes soil disturbance and maximizes plant diversity to increase water efficiency, protect against erosion, pump more nutrients into the soil and Creating more resilience to droughts and floods, sequestering more carbon and increasing yield and quality per hectare.

We are committed to implementing regenerative farming practices on 100% of McCain’s potato acreage worldwide by 2030 and will be operational three farms of the future by 2025 worldwide, which will devote itself to the development of regenerative agricultural methods.

The company will implement sustainable farming practices on its three future farms, the first of which is now operational in Florenceville, NB, Canada. The purpose is to show that these farming practices, supported by technology and innovation, can be implemented on a large scale and are economically viable for farmers.

What are the most important milestones you have reached so far in India?

As the challenges of climate change become more acute, the global food system must change significantly to feed a growing population while reducing the impact on nature. It needs to evolve to adapt to changing consumer expectations and to adapt to the disruptions in the food supply chain caused by more erratic and extreme weather events.

Over the years, McCain Foods has successfully advanced new models of sustainable agriculture around the world while reducing its ecological footprint. In India, the main goal is to reduce land impact by helping farmers future-proof their farms by promoting smart and sustainable agriculture.

Some of our key milestones are listed below

Smart and sustainable agriculture

14% reduction in water use intensity (m3 / ton) in our growing regions from 2017 to 2020 through the use of drip irrigation technology.

56% of the contracted potato volume is certified according to Global GAP, compared to 36% in 2019.

Reduction of pesticide use by 19% (kg active ingredient per ton of potato) compared to the initial value in 2017.

Over 1250 hours of training in 2020; 94% more than 2019.

14% of our breeders are under 35 years old; of 11% in F19. This supports our succession planning to encourage the next generation to start farming.

Resource-efficient operation

3% improvement in CO2 emission intensity (Scope 1 & 2) 2017-20.

Purchased electricity from wind turbines in 2020 and secured the environmental certificates in order to be able to obtain 20% renewable electricity in 2021.

100% recovery of B2C plastic materials from April 2020. Our corrugated cardboard packaging has a recycled content of 99.7%, compared to 98.2% in 2019. 99.7% FSC-certified paper materials

Enjoy your meal

13% sodium reduction in our veggie nuggets. 10% sodium reduction in our smiles. Preparations for the switch from palm oil to alternative oils by 2025 are ongoing.

Blooming communities

We have stepped up our efforts for the Shakti project, which has affected 411 women and girls to date, including 116 in 2020. For the first time, the Utthan project raised the livelihoods of 203 small and marginalized farmers in four villages in the Sabarkatha region in Gujarat launched year. 152,000 meals donated 26 tons of finished goods.

What are your plans for the next five years?

Admired for our quality, our people and our customer engagement, McCain’s vision has long been a global leader in potatoes and appetizers. Our goal is to produce and market the best and most innovative ready-made potato and starter products for our consumers and customers in food retail and fast food restaurants.

Our commitment to sustainability is anchored in our goal of celebrating real connections through delicious, eco-friendly food. We believe building a resilient future and preserving the planet is our shared responsibility and we are well on our way to meet our 2030 sustainability goals.

Our global sustainability plans aim to meet environmental commitments to not landfill waste, use 100% renewable energy, reduce CO2 emissions by 50% and increase water efficiency by 15% by 2030. We are a signatory to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and we are committed to building a circular economy for plastics. In this context, we want to ensure that 100% of our materials are recyclable, which requires successful collection, sorting and recycling by the consumer and has been proven in practice and on a scale.

In addition to our commitment to “Planet Friendly Food”, we plan to reduce the sodium content in our products by 15% by 2025, provide clear and transparent nutritional information and remove artificial ingredients. By 2025, we want to operate three future farms around the world that are dedicated to the further development of regenerative agricultural practices.

(Copyright @ RusenKumar / IndiaCSR)

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