Nottinghamshire veg growing co-op Freshgro is aiming to produce the world’s first carbon neutral carrots this year.
The co-operative of 10 farms will use lifecycle analysis to calculate the carbon footprint of the chantenay carrots it supplies to supermarkets and caterers across the UK. The project will be run with farming and sustainability consultancy Campbell-Gibbons Consulting and supply chain management company Intellync-Sustain.
Once calculated, a carbon reduction plan will be developed alongside the purchase of a small number of carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality for the summer 2022 crop.
Freshgro has control of the whole process from seed production through to irrigation, storage and packing. It said all carrots are grown within 15 miles of its packhouse, which is powered by a 500kW wind turbine and 200kW solar panels, generating four times more energy than the business uses – which is then sold back to the National Grid.
In addition, the group has reduced the amount of packaging on its products and is developing a new format for a carrot fibre-based punnet. It also recycles water on site and operates a no-crop waste policy.
Freshgro said its previous tools were not sophisticated enough to accurately measure its environmental impact, which was why it had partnered with expert businesses on its new project.
“As a business we have always been focused on things that have been both cost-efficient and good for the environment,” said Freshgro CEO Martin Evans. “Now we are working with experts who understand our sector so that we can transparently say to customers and consumers that our carrots are truly produced in harmony with nature, with no net climate impact.”
“Capturing growers’ environmental performance on issues such as biodiversity, waste, plastics and water use and setting clear targets for improvement provides a focus for the business,” said Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, who owns the Campbell-Gibbons Consultancy and is a former NFU chief horticulture advisor and AHDB board member.
“It meets government policy priorities and, crucially, satisfies the demands of retail customers who are asking, and obliging, suppliers to step up on sustainability,” she added.
“Achieving carbon neutral status for a premium fresh produce crop like chantenay carrots will resonate with retailers and consumers, and promotes the huge potential growers have to supply products with minimal climate impacts.”