Background

Natural resources must be respected and protected. As a company in the agricultural sector, a healthy earth is our greatest asset. To contribute to responsible use of the earth’s resources, we focus on::

  • Reducing the environmental footprint of our organisation;
  • Developing potato varieties which score better in terms of sustainability;
  • Reducing transport kilometres by promoting ‘local for local’ cultivation, amongst other things;
  • Taking more responsibility in the chain.

Table of objectives*

Lowering our organisation’s impact on the environment

Energy consumption

We want to lower energy consumption and reduce CO2 emissions for our own organisation in the Netherlands and for all locations in foreign countries. We started in the Netherlands with our head office in Joure, R&D Centre and greenhouses in Metslawier, the quality centre in Emmeloord and the storage and sorting companies in Emmeloord, Stiens and Wehe den Hoorn. The next step is to evaluate how consumption can be lowered at the international locations.

“100% renewable energy”

Frouwkje Riedstra | financial officer

Energy Savings Plan

We have an understanding of our consumption per location, based on a baseline measurement carried out in 2013. This resulted in the establishment of an Energy Savings Plan with a number of important improvement areas.

Opportunities for improvement include:
   
Replace lights with LED or T5 lighting Energy savings of 40 – 60%
Double glass 80%
Heat recovery (by chillers) € 4.500 per location per year
Combat standby consumption at all locations
Renewable energy production - 25% savings in energy consumption

                                          

Renewable energy production

A calculation was made for all locations, for the generation of renewable energy through solar panels. From this it appears that nearly 25% of the overall in-house energy consumption can be generated on location.

Locations Capacity Production
  [kWh// peak period] [kWh/year]
     
Joure 75 72.000
Metslawier 153 143.000
Quality centre 55 49.000
Emmeloord 260 214.000
Stiens 280 242.000
Wehe den Hoorn 228 203.000
     
Total 1.051 923.000

In the coming period, we will look at the steps that are needed to accomplish the transition to in-house generation of renewable energy.

Sustainable greenhouses

Our Research & Development Center and greenhouses are located in Metslawier. New varieties are developed in these greenhouses, intended for millions of consumers around the world.  An entirely renovated and sustainable greenhouse complex was built in 2010. Sustainable technology, amongst other things, is used to heat the greenhouses (Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage), to regulate irrigation (collection and use of greywater) and to keep out vermin (closed greenhouses).

Read more on our sustainable greenhouses

Mobility

Videoconferencing

Each year a great deal of travelling takes place around the world between the different locations, test fields and clients. To save on costs and kilometres travelled by car, and to reduce flight movements, we urge everyone to use videoconferencing to a greater extent, where possible.

Improving the sustainability of the vehicle fleet

A plan was developed to improve the sustainability of the leased vehicle fleet. HZPC wants to promote the use of energy-efficient vehicles. We utilise a bonus-malus scheme. This scheme entails that vehicles with an energy label of C, B and A are promoted, by applying a (an ascending) bonus to the established normal leasing price. For vehicles with an energy label from D, a (an ascending) malus will be applied to the established normal leasing price.

During the course of 2014 we will take the next step to further optimise the vehicle fleet, with regard to improving sustainability and achieving a greener vehicle fleet. This change entails, in specific, that two limits will be applied from now on for vehicle testing:

  • The vehicle’s maximum level of CO2 emissions per function category. The objective for 2015 is that, for the entire vehicle fleet, the average level of CO2 emissions does not exceed 120 g/km.
  • A maximum standard leasing amount, including fuel consumption (by including the fuel in the test calculation, the choice for a vehicle with lower fuel consumption, on average, is promoted).

The following can also be included in the new vehicle scheme (optionally):

  • NS OV Business Card
  • Tyre pressure check on location
  • Use of a leisure vehicle
  • Choice of alternative fuels

Digital policy

Our goal is to reduce paper consumption within HZPC by 20% in the Netherlands, during the next two years to 2016. We have been purchasing FSC or recycled paper since 2014.

Paper consumption per year (2013):

   
HZPC Holland: 515.000 A4 sheets
R&D Metslawier: 50.000 A4 sheets
ZOS: 75.000 A4 sheets

This is what we have been doing digitally since This is what we are going to do:
   
Pay slips PR Materials
Transition to first digital invoices Annual Report
Annual Report (partially) Promote printing awareness
Mailings, minutes, meeting documents, digital invitations Making it possible to work digitally to a greater extent with automation modifications
Replaced depreciated printers with new duplex printers Deploying more duplex printers, or just 1 printer per department
Sustainability Report  

Development of sustainable potatoes

Development of new varieties with a higher yield and reduced impact

The development of new varieties with high (intrinsic) qualities, for cultivation under difficult conditions, such as heat or drought or in poor soil, is a spearhead in our breeding strategy. Research & Development (R&D) therefore plays an important part in our business operations.

With a wide network of test field locations around the world, we have included the most important climates and cultivation conditions in our variety testing. We aim to improve the performance of our varieties even further with research on the best degree of irrigation and fertilisation per variety.

R&D conducts projects on stress (challenging conditions such as heat, drought, poor soil), amongst other things. These projects focus on the development of varieties with a high yield, supplemented with various resistances. We want to increase the yield for growers of propagating material in the Netherlands, as well as the yield for the grower at the final destination.

Our breeding ground is fuelled, in part, by our strong group of exclusive affiliated breeders, who join our internal selection programme from the fourth test year. With the aid of these breeders, for the Traditional sector, amongst others, we have been able to add new varieties to our range in 2013 / 2014, such as: Panamera, Farida, Lucinda, Memphis and Flamenco.

One example of a young variety with great potential for stressful cultivation areas is the Panamera. What makes this variety so special is its tolerance to drought and its nitrogen efficiency. This implies lower costs for the grower.

Read more on Research & Development

Food for the potato

Sustainable food production starts with the soil. A potato plant will yield many times more under optimum growing conditions. The differences in yield can be explained by the soil structure, in 70% of cases, and by fertilisation, in 30% of cases. Fertilisation always seemed self-evident, but this has changed entirely. Fertilisation is now being viewed in a different light, because of environmental legislation as well as scarcity. Raw materials, minerals such as Nitrogen (N) and Phosphate (P), are not inexhaustible. There are just a few areas left in the world where pure phosphate is extracted.  This element, in particular, is an extremely important mineral for the potato plant’s growth.  

Since fertilisers are applied to a diminished extent, some potato varieties do not receive optimum levels of essential nutrients. They can become susceptible to certain diseases. A shortage of Magnesium, for example, increases the susceptibility to Alternaria (fungal disease) significantly for a number of varieties.

HZPC established two test fields with different N platforms, and a location with Potassium platforms. The soil levels are tested in advance and the levels absorbed by the plant, during the growth phase, are measured by way of leaf analyses. This is done with several varieties. This provides us with an understanding of the effect of N on yield and quality, amongst other things, but also of the interaction with other minerals, and we observe whether the particular variety becomes more susceptible to disease. We therefore get to know the particular variety even better. With this knowledge we can produce new and improved potato varieties that are less susceptible to disease or that perform best under challenging conditions.

In the meantime, a number of varieties have become so efficient in terms of nutrient absorption, that they can get by with very little and still provide optimum performance. A good example is the Mozart variety, which yields the best performance at 60 - 70% of normal fertilisation levels.

The potato’s water footprint

The production of food is responsible for 85% of the annual water consumption in the world (Arjen Hoekstra, Professor of Water Management at the University of Twente in Trouw). Hoekstra developed the ‘water footprint’ concept, a model which provides an understanding of the volume of water transported around the world through various foods.

 

The average worldwide ‘water footprint’ for potatoes is 290 litres/kg. In the Netherlands, with high yields and considerable periods of cloudiness, it is a mere 100 litres/kg. Crisps, on the other hand, require an average of 1040 litres of water per kg of product. To compare, the average worldwide water consumption for other crops and production:

Development of a plan for a sustainability index for the varieties

We want to develop a sustainability index for our potato varieties. The various sustainable properties per variety will be included and compared in this index. Based on this sustainability index, growers will be able to determine which sustainable variants they want to purchase, on the basis of the best performance for their market or climate conditions.

We expect to have this sustainability index ready in 2015.

Improvement of logistics and packaging

Local for local cultivation in Europe

How do we limit the transport kilometres for propagating material and potatoes? This question is high on our agenda. We aim to produce as much as possible locally. In 2013, HZPC produced more than 17,700 ha of propagating material in Europe. Sixtysix per cent of this production took place in the Netherlands.

Five years ago, 78% of propagating material still originated from the Netherlands for European production. We want to reduce this. This is why we incorporate local for local cultivation. In specific terms this implies that since an HZPC production location is present in these countries (the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Finland) HZPC cultivates propagating material locally for the local market. In other words, cultivate close to home, where the consumer’s market is. This local for local strategy means that transport kilometres are limited for propagating material.

Despite this, it is sometimes better to export from the Netherlands. Exporting a good yield of high-quality potatoes from a Dutch field to Brazil, for example, may have less of an impact on the environment than actually producing this same volume locally in Brazil.  

However, export to the surrounding countries will always continue to take place. This is true because a number of these producing countries will continue to show a demand for high-quality propagating material from the Netherlands. This propagating material then undergoes further development in the relevant country, for several years. After this period it is released on the local market for the production of potatoes for consumption. Sometimes clients also have a preference for Dutch origin. In that case export from the Netherlands is the only option.

Export to other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa mostly occurs from the Netherlands.

Share of propagating material produced locally, of the overall propagating material sold in European producing countries (outside of the Netherlands):

Optimisation of transport of propagating material

HZPC takes care of the transport of potatoes and propagating material. The task of distributing propagating material and potatoes is situated in the Netherlands. The potatoes are exported around the world from various distribution centres. For this reason, more transport movements take place in the Netherlands, compared to other countries. The challenge is to arrange the logistics as efficiently as possible, in order to limit the number of transport movements.

Transport by truck has an impact on the environment and is costly. Fewer trucks on the road contribute to better traffic flow.  For this reason we’ve started to utilise inland vessel transport. More than 400 containers (carrying 25 tonnes of potatoes per container) were transported to the ports of Velsen and Rotterdam in the 2013 season, on Dutch waters.

Use of sustainable packaging

We talk to our suppliers regarding their sustainability efforts. Packaging companies represent an important group of suppliers. Each year a large volume of jute bags are used for the packaging of propagating material. These are mostly 50 kg and 25 kg bags. Jute is a natural product which has been used successfully for many years for the packaging of propagating material. It ensures conservation of the propagating material’s quality during transport and storage. An important advantage of jute is that it is a natural product and is 100% biodegradable.

The jute that is used for the production of potato bags, originates from Bangladesh, for the most part. The producers of jute bags - with which HZPC does business - work on improving the sustainability of the local production of jute.

We use various forms of packaging for propagating material.

Pallets
The pallets used by us for transport are made of wood from responsibly-managed forests. We have looked at making the transition to Euro pallets with deposit. This is not possible at present, because the Euro pallet sizes do not cater to our needs.

The pallets that are shipped to countries like the Middle East or Africa stay there. They are used in those countries for various purposes by local companies and by the population. Return of these pallets is impossible, in view of phytosanitary reasons. The pallets that are used for export have undergone heat treatment during manufacture, to kill any pathogens that might be present. The risk associated with reusing these pallets, in the countries where propagating material is produced, is too high in connection with incoming quarantine diseases.

Chain responsibility

Selection of growers and breeders with a sustainability programme

We at HZPC cannot improve the sustainability of the potato chain on our own. We need the growers to be on board. Stichting Veldleeuwerik supports growers that want to make their companies more sustainable. Soil improvement is an important component of this process. Sustainable use of soil is important to the grower and to HZPC. Future generations must also be able to cultivate potatoes. Yields and quality can only be improved through enhanced utilisation of the soil.

In recent years, Stichting Veldleeuwerik has developed a method to improve the sustainability of farms. This starts with the soil, the most important capital asset of any farm. Veldleeuwerik underwent tremendous development since 2011. Growth entailed an increase from 46 to 363 farmers in all agricultural areas in the Netherlands. In addition, the number of HZPC growers participating in Veldleeuwerik grew from 6 to 53 over two years. HZPC became a member of Stichting Veldleeuwerik in 2012.

Farmers who participate in Veldleeuwerik work together on a future-proof company. Each farmer drafts an individual policy plan, with assistance from an adviser, to establish where they want their company to stand in the years to come. An action plan is drafted each year in order to reach that goal.

The experiences of participating farmers have been very positive. They indicate that they learn a great deal from one another. In regional meetings, farmer colleagues hold up mirrors to one another (under the supervision of an external adviser), inspire one another with ideas, and challenge one another. The result is that they often take steps to implement actions much sooner, compared to farmers who stand alone. No unnecessary matters in the outside world’s opinion, but taking steps for a future-proof company, with a practical approach.

Growers work together on their own sustainability plan, on the basis of 10 indicators.

Veldleeuwerik’s 10 indicators:  
   
1. Product value 6. Water
2. Soil fertility 7. Energy
3. Soil loss 8. Biodiversity
4. Nutrients 9. Human capital
5. Crop protection 10. Local Economy

Visit the website of Veldleeuwerik (dutch)

Sippenburch on the road to sustainability

‘Sippenburch’ farm, HZPC’s agricultural company, participates in Veldleeuwerik. Durk Seepma (Manager) is enthusiastic about this initiative. During the past year various sustainable initiatives were set in motion, such as eelworm resistant green manure crops, biofumigation and a bio-container for spray remnants.

Durk: ‘The most important aspect is that we, the agricultural sector, are aware of our place in society. We must stay in contact with the consumers, who know less and less about agriculture and about how food is produced. Society keeps a close eye on us and our business operations must take social needs and requirements into consideration, and must explain what we do.’

Participation
HZPC is not making it mandatory for growers to participate in Veldleeuwerik (yet). We do, however, try to convince growers to participate. We are also a member, and find it a good working method with which growers can work on sustainability. At grower meetings, like the one held in February 2014, we delve right into the central theme of soil and fertilisation. This is an important component of Veldleeuwerik. In the meantime, 53 growers have joined the Stichting Veldleeuwerik HZPC participant. It is our goal for this number to increase by at least 12 growers per year.

Global GAP
Global GAP is the standard for food production. Worldwide, more than 100,000 growers produce food in accordance with these food safety standards. The requirements were tightened up in 2012, and an increased responsibility for food safety is now borne by the grower.

Growers affiliated with HZPC must comply with the Global GAP standard. The certificate is based on food safety, but various CSR criteria have also been included. The grower must, for example, comply with statutory rules in respect of crop protection.

In 2002, HZPC chose to take charge of the certification process. Global GAP offers the option to have the audits conducted by the marketing organisation. ECAS ensures that HZPC conducts these audits correctly. This certification method is used frequently outside of the Netherlands. The consequence of this working method is that all growers must comply with the standard before all growers can be certified together as a group.

Placing demands on suppliers (transport companies)

We started our first talks on sustainability with transporters in 2013. Evaluations are currently underway with our permanent transporters, to figure out what they are doing in terms of CSR. We will determine what to set as a standard for our transporters, based on these evaluations.

Selection of suppliers (packaging companies) with a sustainability programme

HZPC talks to its suppliers regarding their sustainability efforts. Packaging companies represent an important group of suppliers. Each year a large volume of jute bags are used for the packaging of propagating material. These are mostly 50 kg and 25 kg bags. Jute is a natural product which has been used successfully for many years for the packaging of propagating material.

The jute that is used for the production of potato bags, originates from Bangladesh, for the most part. The producers of jute bags - with which HZPC does business - work on improving the sustainability of the local production of jute.