California farmers find ways to work with less water

April 5, 2021 by  
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Water scarcity due to persistent droughts in California’s Central Valley is forcing scientists and farmers to find innovative and sustainable ways of utilizing this precious resource. Through collaboration, the community has found ways of reusing water several times in a bid to fully tap into its benefits. The process of conservation and recycling starts just a few miles downstream of all major rivers and streams in the state. With the main source of water for the Central Valley being the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the community relies on a series of infrastructures to utilize the water every step of the way. Structures such as the Pine Flat Reservoir are vital to the plan of minimizing water use. Related: Is high-yield vertical farming the future of agriculture? The reservoir serves as a hydroelectric power station point, utilizing the speed of the free-falling water to turn turbines to generate electricity for the region. Given that hydroelectric power is a greener source of electricity, locals ensure that they have cut down reliance on fossil fuels. Further into the Central Valley, the same water is put to use by farmers who utilize technology to minimize water use. Famers collaborate with local institutions such as the Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology to adopt sustainable irrigation methods. “So we have basically three essential functions,” said Charles Hillyer, director of Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology. “We do field testing and technology. We do research relating to agriculture specifically for irrigation, and then we have a laboratory that tests and certifies equipment for different research experiments that are all testing different aspects of water use efficiency. One is focused on a product that may reduce consumptive use of water .” Hillyer further explained that irrigation has become mandatory to all farmers in California because of droughts . As a result, they have to adopt methods of sustainable agriculture. “So irrigation matters to everybody who eats in California ,” Hillyer said. “That’s why sustainable production practices are important because this is how we’re going to continue to feed ourselves and the rest of the world.” From training irrigation managers to finding new, sustainable methods of irrigation, Central Valley farmers will have to adapt to the reality of climate change . But Hillyer noted that the future for sustainable water use is bright. “My hope is that this institution will continue as it has done in the past to generate research and pure science research that is useful not only to agriculture but other scientists,” Hillyer said. Via ABC7 Image via Mia S

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Global warming is making crop storage costly for farmers

March 30, 2021 by  
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Global food storage is exposed to significant dangers following a rise in global temperatures. Farmers and food processor companies require foods to stay in their fresh state for several days, if not months, after harvesting. Most farmers store their food in spaces that do not require any special equipment. However, with rising global temperatures, these spaces are becoming increasingly delicate. One Michigan farmer, Brian Sackett, told the Associated Press that the rising temperatures in recent years have made food storage a problem. Sackett, along with other farmers in Michigan, produces the crops needed for about one-quarter of all U.S. potato chips. When farmers harvest their potatoes, they have to store them for a number of days before the crops are processed into potato chips. Related: Topsoil is disappearing from Midwest farms Sackett explained that he was forced to spend approximately $125,000 on a refrigerator that will help store potatoes . Higher temperatures cause farm harvests to spoil quicker than usual, making operations difficult for most farmers. For a long time, farmers relied on the cool air in Michigan to keep their potatoes fresh all the way until late spring. However, the period in which potatoes can be stored naturally is increasingly getting smaller. “Our good, fresh, cool air is getting less all the time, it seems like,” Sackett said. The new refrigerator on Sackett’s farm was produced by Techmark Inc., a company that engineers agricultural equipment. The company management said that due to increasing temperatures, farmers will have to rely on such technologies to keep their food products fresh. While refrigerators have long been used in farming to store produce, in a situation where natural storage is possible, operation costs are lowered. For farmers that must shift to refrigeration, such equipment could lead to a spike in food prices. “Whose pocket is it going to come out of? Probably the consumer,” said Courtney Leisner, plant physiology scientist at Auburn University. “There’s a big disconnect in our minds about the chain of events between the field and the grocery store and onto our plate. Just a few degrees can make all the difference in whether it’s economical to store the fruits and vegetables that we expect to have on our dinner table 365 days a year.” Via AP News Image via René Schaubhut

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Scientists raise alarm over the resurgence of murder hornets

March 23, 2021 by  
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Scientists and state agencies are concerned about the resurgence of the murder hornet, a giant flying insect known for its dangerous sting and ability to destroy an entire bee colony in just hours. Experts are warning the public that this invasive species’ hibernation is coming to an end, and scientists need help eradicating them before they become a bigger problem. The murder hornet starts building its nests in spring , but the activity comes with a trail of destruction. In the past two years, the bug has been spotted in the state of Washington and British Columbia. Related: Invasive “murder hornets” arrive in US, threaten honeybees “This is not a species we want to tolerate here in the United States. We may not get them all, but we will get as many as we can.” said Sven-Erik Spichiger, managing entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Scientists are now calling on members of the public for help. The Washington State Department of Agriculture has published a  statement  encouraging residents to put out orange juice- or brown sugar-based traps. “Washington’s plans remain similar to last year’s response, including a strong emphasis on public outreach , reporting, and trapping in addition to the agency’s trapping,” the department said. “[The department] will continue to use orange juice and rice cooking wine in traps while citizen scientists will have the option of using either the orange juice or a brown sugar-based bait.” Last year, citizen trappings and reports were instrumental in containing the hornets. Almost half of the confirmed reports of murder hornets in Washington were from members of the public. The agency says that it will still be relying on the community this year as part of its broad approach to eradicate this invasive species . The so-called murder hornets, scientifically known as Vespa mandarinia , are killer insects that account for dozens of deaths every year in Asia. However, their biggest threat is not to humans but to bees. One hornet can kill one bee in just 14 seconds. + Washington State Department of Agriculture Via EcoWatch Image via Yasunori Koide

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Scientists raise alarm over the resurgence of murder hornets

Plexus highlights reuse with this adaptable flat-pack design

March 23, 2021 by  
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You’ve probably been to plenty of festivals, trade fairs and other events where you stopped at booths to sample food, shop for cool items or just browse around a bit. But you may have never stuck around to see what happens after the fair is over and all those stalls are discarded. This process can cause a great deal of waste — and this is exactly what Plexus is determined to eliminate. Vendors don’t typically re-use the stalls that comprise their booths. They want something that looks fresh and new, something that will showcase their brand. Enter Plexus, a waste-reducing prototype created by Studio Symbiosis during a workshop for the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at AKTU Lucknow. Related: Hello Wood launches flat-pack kits for DIY tiny cabins Plexus is an entire network of different components. The unique construction allows for a new design for every different event. The adaptable system can be used to create many different stall sizes. Designed on a cellular automata model, the Plexus system allows for over 1,000 possible designs. The whole system can also be flat-packed in crates for easy shipping and travel. Festivals, fairs and exhibitions are fun events, rife with opportunities for businesses. These events are great opportunities to market products, network and directly reach customers. However, the resulting waste is a problem for the environment . Plexus allows vendors to lessen the waste without changing the way trade fairs and similar events are conducted. Because the system can be used in so many ways to create so many designs, any type of vendor can find a form that will allow them to best display their products and business. Many people don’t think about what happens after all the fun events are over and it’s time to clean up. Thankfully, Studio Symbiosis picked up the slack and came up with a solution to reduce the waste problem that goes hand-in-hand with trade fairs. + Studio Symbiosis Images via Studio Symbiosis

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Topsoil is disappearing from Midwest farms

February 26, 2021 by  
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Almost one-third of crop-growing land in the upper Midwest is now devoid of its most fertile topsoil, says a controversial new study. Evan Thaler, a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who worked on the study, acknowledged that their estimates are at odds with those published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I think the USDA is dramatically underestimating the amount of loss,” said Thaler . Related: SoilKit wins recognition through Lowe’s small businesses program As any home gardener knows, soil varies in color and quality. Even if you don’t garden, you’ve probably seen the different soil colors when flying over agricultural land. The darkest, richest soil is known as topsoil, the “black, organic, rich soil that’s really good for growing crops,” Thaler explained. When farmers first settled the Midwest, there was no shortage of this soil, which is full of organic carbon, made by stuff like decaying plant roots and living microorganisms. The topsoil layer is known by soil scientists as the “A-horizon.” But a century or two of plowing released this trapped carbon. Water erosion and wind scattered the topsoil. The remaining, depleted soil is much lighter in color. Thaler and his team used satellite images and the USDA’s direct measurements of soil quality in their study. They concluded that the light brown soil is so lacking in organic carbon that it can’t be considered A-horizon soil. Not all soil scientists are convinced by Thaler’s new study. Some question his methodology and say there’s not enough data to prove the extent of topsoil loss that he’s claiming. According to Michelle Wander of the University of Illinois, some topsoil might also be mixed into underlying soil layers, rather than entirely gone. However, everyone agrees that topsoil is in trouble. “To me, it’s not important whether it’s exactly a third,” said Anna Cates, Minnesota’s state soil health specialist, as reported by NPR. “Maybe it’s twenty percent, maybe it’s forty percent. There’s a lot of topsoil gone from the hills.” Unless farmers are willing to till the land less and perhaps change crops to slowly rebuild topsoil, the A-horizon will continue to recede. Via NPR Image via Pixabay

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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success

February 23, 2021 by  
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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success Jesse Klein Tue, 02/23/2021 – 01:30 A few years into Danone’s and General Mills’ regenerative agriculture pilots, one thing has become clear: It’s about data collection. Holistically changing our agriculture system to become more sustainable comes later.  “We really don’t have a great understanding of what happens when farmers make these transitions to regenerative systems,” said Steven Rosenzweig, senior soil scientist at General Mills. “This represents a way to get a better understanding of what’s really happening with these landscapes.” Danone recently completed a three-year pilot program for regenerative agriculture on 82,000 acres of farmland. According to Nicholas Camu, vice president of agriculture at Danone North America, the biggest reward of this pilot is the data and subsequent analysis to understand what’s going on in the fields.  The company’s project provided funding — through government grants and fund matching initiatives — to help farmers transition to no-till agriculture and crop rotation, plant cover crops and other regenerative practices. By the end of the pilot, Danone’s farmers planted cover crops on 64 percent of the total acreage and practiced no-till on 77 percent. The national average is 5 percent and 33 percent respectively. They also doubled the number of crop species to 32. By switching to these regenerative practices, Danone hoped farms would restore the soil, foster biodiversity, protect water systems, reduce greenhouse gases and sequester more carbon. But doing so in a significant way to combat climate change will take much more than three years, and probably closer to a generation. So getting the data on what worked and how well it worked is almost more important at this early stage. Danone worked with third-party verification organization EcoPractices to measure the decrease in emissions, decrease in erosion and increase in carbon soil sequestration on each farm. But the reports are not public and data has remained the property of each individual farm, so we don’t really know how the shift to regenerative agriculture practices performed.  But Danone did share that across the 82,000 acres in the pilot, 39,035 acres grew cover crops and 46,378 acres reduced till or practiced no-till. In aggregate, according to Danone, practicing regenerative agriculture in this program reduced more than 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and sequestered more than 20,000 tons of carbon into the soil.  Now with that data, Danone can use its “return on investment” tool to model what happens when farmers implement regenerative agriculture techniques and can use that to convince other farms it is worth the investment.  These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm. “With this tool that we developed, we can say ‘OK, you need to buy a new tractor to reduce tillage. And we now know that at this farm, it will pay itself back in four years, which gives us the right arguments to talk to the farmers and convince them that this is the right investment and we will help you cover those costs for four years,” said Camu. “That’s all thanks to this data gathering that we can really make specific solutions for specific farms.” General Mills is only one year into its three-year program but it already has laid the groundwork for a massive data dump. The program involves 24 wheat growers in Kansas, 45 grain and oat farmers in Canada and three dairy farms in Michigan. The company took baseline samples in 2019 of the birds, insects and soil carbon levels at each farm and plans to come back each year to see progress. Its overarching sustainability goal is to expand regenerative agriculture practices to 1 million acres by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025.  “Farmers want to learn from the scientists,” said Rosenzweig. “Showing them how they’re collecting the data and what they’re finding. There’s a huge educational opportunity to transfer that knowledge from the scientists to the farmers and vice versa. The farmers are also seeing lots of things that scientists might not necessarily catch.”  These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm.  Through the program, General Mills learned that the best science-based intentions can fall flat when they bump up against reality. According to Rosenzweig, the weather is the biggest unexpected challenge faced by any farmer and last year there was a record-breaking dry climate in the summer and fall in Canada followed by a wet spring. The perfect breeding ground for grasshoppers. The increase in grasshoppers created huge yield reductions as the pests ate crops.  According to Rosenzweig, even though the farmers were trying to spray fewer pesticides as part of their regenerative agriculture plan, they had to give in to control the massive grasshopper influx.  “So while [the farmers] are working towards establishing a healthy ecosystem with predator populations and general insect diversity to control against these pest outbreaks, until you have a system that’s really humming, you are still vulnerable to a lot of these pest outbreaks,” he said. During its pilot, Danone also learned that no-till agriculture didn’t work for farms where the ground is tough and full of clay. According to Camu, it compacts too fast and makes it impossible to plant anything without tillage, so they had to dial back up the tillage at those specific farms. Regenerative agriculture isn’t a light switch. Danone’s and General Mills’ pilots and subsequent data gathering are to help farmers slowly start to turn the wheel and break the high barrier of entry to regenerative agriculture. Armed with good data and anecdotal evidence, Danone plans to expand its regenerative agriculture to 100,000 acres over the next two years. “It’s best to let your farmers do the talking for you to the other farmers,” Camu said. “You have to have the right arguments and some proof. Some take the leap of faith a little bit faster than others. But then when you have those, you always have farmers that follow.” Pull Quote These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Farmers Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The main take away from General Mills’ and Danone’s programs is testing the theories of carbon sequestration. //Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success

Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

February 22, 2021 by  
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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations Elsa Wenzel Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:30 A circular economy looks different within each industry, but its broad vision of healing the harm from the industrial economy’s extractive, polluting original sins is appealing more to a variety of businesses. A small number of influential large companies are creating internal funds to support sustainability goals specific to circular economy initiatives, such as designing out waste and recovering materials from products used internally or sold in the market. The eyes of traditional investors are widening to the landscape as well. It’s an early-stage, sometimes loosely defined space, where many solutions remain unproven, but the long-term payoffs in terms of sustainability and cost reductions could be enormous. That’s the hope of several early movers in circular economy investing, who shared their insights at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event in early February.  Nestlé and Microsoft are among the noteworthy corporations putting considerable investments behind circular programs involving products and services, in service of their sustainability targets and with an eye to spark broader change across their industries. “I would almost challenge people to not think of it as, ‘I have to set up a fund separate from,’ but it’s more of, ‘How do I set up our business to operate differently going forward?’” said Anna Marciano, head of U.S. legal sustainability at Nestlé USA. “If we’re going to make sure that we’re using more recycled content, if we’re going to ensure that we’re going to reduce carbon emissions, then we need to be tracking that. So then our procurement team needs to be monitoring that and they need to be held accountable for all of our ESG commitments.” If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. One goal of Closed Loop Partners (CLP), entering its ninth year, is to bring together institutional investors with strategic corporate investors who seek to build a circular economy for their supply chains while helping their sustainability goals. (CLP’s private-equity Closed Loop Leadership Fund , launched in 2018, counts Nestlé, Microsoft and Nuveen among its investors.) “I have heard more in the last few years, probably than ever before, companies talking about investing off their balance sheets to achieve some of these goals, which I think is new vernacular for a lot of companies,” said Bridget Croke, managing director at CLP. Nestlé’s circular recipe Also about one year ago, Nestlé launched its $2 billion sustainability fund , to support companies developing innovative packaging and recycling technologies through 2025. (The company’s first investment was in the Closed Loop Leadership Fund.) The producer of coffee, candy and cocoa also created a nearly $260 million venture fund in support of planet-friendly packaging technologies. Its broader sustainability targets include getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Nestlé’s circular plans include, by 2025, reducing virgin plastics in packaging by one-third and making all of its packaging reusable and recyclable. But goals aren’t enough without something to back them up, Marciano said. “If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories,” Marciano said. “And so it becomes really critical for this to be a mindset shift to say, yes, this is absolutely what we need to achieve.” Nestlé knew it had to invest in designing packaging for the future to meet its packaging commitments, so it established its Institute for Packaging Science in 2019 in Switzerland. One pocket-size result is new recyclable paper packaging for Smarties candies, popular in the U.K. “That’s really where the strong collaboration, the collective action of financial investments come into play,” Marciano added. ”So we’re really targeting investments to help transform the recycling infrastructure, so we could advance the circular economy at the end of the day.” Microsoft’s circular formula Similarly, as a corporate citizen, Microsoft aimed to look beyond the four walls of its own operations toward suppliers and customers, and other industries it touches, to enable circular markets to grow, said Brandon Middaugh, director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.  Like Nestlé, Microsoft also looks at translating its goals into circular economy action in terms of designing out waste, reusing and recycling materials and products, and replenishing natural resources that it uses — three pillars reflected by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The investment strategy includes identifying and prioritizing the major areas of waste that apply to Microsoft’s own supply chains and operations, including its devices, cloud infrastructure and campus operations, Middaugh said. One new initiative is to build Microsoft Circular Centers  to further the reuse of computer servers and other hardware from the company’s data centers.  “We really recognized that it was not enough to set the operational goal and to do that work internally. We needed to be partnering externally and reaching outside into the market to try to be an advance team for the innovation in the industry,” she said. Microsoft is one year into its $1 billion, four-year Climate Innovation Fund . Carbon, water, waste and ecosystems are the core focus areas for the software juggernaut, which is aiming to carbon negative by 2030, removing all the carbon it has historically emitted by 2050. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? The fund, a joint finance-sustainability initiative, is one of three balance-sheet ESG funds at Microsoft, in addition to others around affordable housing and racial equity.  Middaugh said it’s useful to have a unified playbook toward a single goal, which may lean on products, operational investments, employee engagement and even advocacy, using partnerships in civil society. For Microsoft, the main points are about being carbon negative, water positive, zero waste — and building a ” planetary computer ” that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend resource protection measures, tree by tree. Tangible examples of these include reducing electronic waste and packaging hardware without waste. “Then it’s also about giving the tools for traceability and transparency that we, our customers, need to be able to track circular economy themes,” Middaugh said. Those areas of strategic importance cascade to the investment strategy as well. How to prove circular success? For traditional investors, sustainability with a sound return on investment is key, according to David Haddad, managing director and co-head of impact investing at Nuveen , a subsidiary of TIAA. “We want there to be an economic viability, because our time horizon tends to be relatively shorter than many of these larger companies.”  And traditional institutional investors are challenged by the need to make a certain return within a relatively short time frame, maybe five or 10 years, which may not be enough for a market to mature.  Ways to reduce the risk around investments can include investing in research and innovation; proving that new business models are moving in a certain direction and integrating that into the business; and exploring longer-term contracts, according to Croke. Nestlé’s sustainability fund is already driving results, said Marciano, who is also division general counsel for Nespresso USA and International Premium Waters. “We have access to more recycled plastic already, we’re able to integrate it into our Stouffer’s business, into our Coffee mate business, into our water business,” she said. “So we see it working already. And it’s only been a few months in.” Middaugh noted that Microsoft focuses on metrics around the use of recyclable materials; landfill diversion in terms of solid waste and the construction and demolition waste at its campuses, and an overlapping focus on embodied carbon. “And in terms of how we integrate those with the rest of the decision process. It’s really around assessing the impact, assessing the risk and then looking for that impact and risk-adjusted return,” she said. For Nestlé, measuring circular economy success involves improving recycling rates beyond the company itself by spurring improvements in recycling infrastructure more broadly, encouraging consumers to recycle too. But that’s tricky. The question of measuring social impacts, not just the environmental ones most companies have prioritized, is another matter. Haddad noted that as an impact investor, there’s no cookie-cutter recipe, but Nuveen works closely with each young company to determine relevant metrics, and any failure to be able to report on those alongside financial performance will make it a no-go for funding. Croke agreed that limited tools for tracking certain metrics related to circular goals are difficult for companies or municipalities, but a bonus to working with large tech companies is being able to identify and address data gaps and useful technologies. Partnerships and collaborations are essential How does a sustainability advocate make the business case for investing toward circular, sustainable solutions? What’s the benefit of leveraging the company’s balance sheet or other capital? Early corporate movers may offer useful examples. Croke noted that some companies may find it hard to identify such investment opportunities and run up against limits to the size of deals they can take on. “And so the ability to invest through other funds helps sometimes open up opportunities to invest in things that might be too early-stage or small that need some de-risking,” Croke said. Partnerships with third-party leaders can help when trying to apply lessons to the rest of the business from initiatives around circular servers, recycling and reuse, Middaugh said. She, Marciano and Croke agreed that no organization should try to go it alone when addressing a systemic challenge as large as growing a circular economy. For example, it’s upon Nestlé to share its expertise in sustainable packaging, collaborating with other stakeholders to make sure it’s not introducing harmful materials into products. Such relationships can improve the wheel in multiple areas. And policy advocacy is another spoke of the wheel for Nestlé. Middaugh added that collaborations should involve early-stage innovations and pilots — such as sharing information with other companies exploring advanced materials — as well as later-stage infrastructure buildout. Microsoft is working with suppliers to update its supplier Code of Conduct to reflect its carbon and sustainability goals, also providing the tools to help its partners meet their goals.  The coming transition CLP draws connections across that ecosystem by backing circular efforts by municipalities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities (MRFs). It has invested, for example, in Amp Robotics , which offers early-stage AI for recycling facilities, and PureCycle Technologies , whose technology turns polypropylene back into virgin-quality material. CLP started an innovation hub to support pre-competitive ideas. Croke agreed that data points around diversion of material and greenhouse gas impacts, to name just a couple, are relatively simple to understand. “What I think is sometimes more interesting, and a little bit harder to measure is the catalytic impact that’s being had, we’re all trying to completely transform a supply chain, the way that the supply chain works from being linear to being circular, and the linear supply chain is quite scaled,” she said. “The economics are very efficient today.” However, there’s going to be a lead-up time to building up the scale for new, circular models. In time, costs will expand for existing linear systems, becoming less attractive to newly affordable circular ones.  “But what we’re finding is that there are definitely specific investment opportunities today that are profitable, that makes sense for the institutional kind of partners make sense for our corporate partners, and hopefully create the levers that unlock, value and scale for the rest of the system,” Croke added. Haddad advocated for companies to recognize private equity firms as a force multiplier. “We can really bring capital to bear and our experience with boards and governance to scale those things,” he said. Marciano insisted that it’s not necessary to invest millions of dollars to get started. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and take other small steps to explore circular possibilities. “If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing?” she said. “Think of it that way, and really try to inspire others within your organization to take a chance … What’s the worst that could happen? You asked for the money and you’re told no or not yet. But at least you’ve already planted the seed, that you believe that the money is needed and could make a difference.” Pull Quote If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? Topics Circular Economy Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off  Illustration of circular economy in industry. Shutterstock MG Vectors Close Authorship

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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

Organic and conventional meat production cause equal amounts of emissions

December 24, 2020 by  
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Research published in the journal Nature Communications  has revealed that the environmental impact caused by organically farmed meat is equal to that caused by conventionally farmed meat. The research was carried out to determine the exact cost of foods if their climate costs were accounted for. According to the researchers, the analyzed data should be used to set food prices and taxes that reflect the true costs of food. The research shows that the emissions caused by organically produced meat is similar to those from conventionally farmed meat. This is especially true for cattle and sheep. The researchers found the climate-related damage of raising organic chicken to be slightly worse than raising conventional chicken. On the other hand, organic pork was found to be slightly better in terms of emissions as compared to conventional pork. Related: Will gene editing and cloning create super cows that resist global warming? The research further revealed that if all climate-related costs were considered per food item produced, there would be a 40% increase in shop prices for conventional meat. At the same time, there would be a 25% increase in organic meat . This is not because organic meat causes less pollution but because it is already more expensive than conventional meat. The prices of conventional milk would rise by about 33% while that of organic milk would increase by at least 20%. The study, led by Maximilian Pieper of the Technical University of Munich, analyzed German food production alone. But researchers say that the results would likely be replicated in many other European countries. “We expected organic farming to score better for animal-based products but, for greenhouse gas emissions, it actually doesn’t make much difference,” Pieper said. “But in certain other aspects, organic is certainly better than conventional farming.” Meat produced either organically or conventionally pollutes the environment in many ways. Overuse of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and mishandling of manure are some of the ways in which food production is problematic. Meat consumption can also lead to health complications. Research carried out in 2018 revealed that a  20% tax increase  on red meat would be necessary to cover its associated health effects. + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Pen Ash

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Bond Pet Foods develops slaughter-free chicken for sustainable pet food

September 3, 2020 by  
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It’s an ethical conundrum vegetarian pet owners frequently face — isn’t it hypocritical to eschew meat consumption yourself while still supporting animal slaughter by purchasing pet food? Those days of having to choose Fluffy over a nameless abattoir victim may be coming to an end as Bond Pet Foods improves a new lab-grown chicken protein technology. The Boulder, Colorado-based biotech company has figured out how to crack the genetic code of a chicken and replicate it in a lab. In this case, Inga, a farm-dwelling heritage hen from Lindsborg, Kansas, was the blood donor. Food chemists combine the genetic code in a fermentation tank with food-grade yeast, and voilà, they’ve created something identical to animal meat. The fermentation process is similar to one commonly used to make enzymes for cheese. Related: 7 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner “A new wave of responsible food production is emerging, working with the best that nature and science has to offer, and our team is leading this wave in Pet,” said Rich Kelleman, co-founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods. “Our team’s continued developments are laying the foundation to bring high-value meat protein and nutrition to dogs and cats, while removing farm animals from the equation.” Don’t race to your local pet food store just yet. Bond aims to have the slaughter-free pet food on shelves by 2023 with support from seed investors. In the meantime, an early test of a dog treat made from the cultured chicken protein was a success with canine consumers. “Our initial tests with dog volunteers have been very promising, and its nutritionals, palatability and digestibility will only improve on our path to commercialization,” said Pernilla Audibert, co-founder and CTO of Bond Pet Foods. “The science team at Bond is also working on production of other cultured meat proteins made through a similar fermentation process. The successful chicken prototype is a demonstration of our technology’s potential to create a complete portfolio of animal proteins for pet consumption, and beyond.” + Bond Pet Foods Via VegNews Image via Bond Pet Foods

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Thousands of farm workers face extreme conditions in California

August 25, 2020 by  
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Have you ever thought about the cost of the sweet, fresh fruits you purchase from the store? While produce seems cheap, thousands of low-income laborers at farms are paying a heavy price. In the past few weeks, hundreds of wildfires have broken out in California , filling the air with thick smoke. From the COVID-19 pandemic to wildfires, heatwaves and drought, farm workers in California have been forced to continue working despite unhealthy conditions. Many farm workers who are forced to work under these conditions come from marginalized communities. They are already disadvantaged by the fact that they have no way to shelter from the virus . It is not possible for such workers to harvest produce from their homes. Further, many farms in California are not automated and as a result, farm workers have to manually harvest the fruits and vegetables. Related: Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia According to the Community and Labor Center at the University of California, more than 381,000 people in California work in the frontline agriculture industry. This means that they cannot shelter from COVID-19, as food is considered an essential service. “Whether it’s wildfire , pandemic, drought or storm, farmworkers are out in the field,” said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. “It’s a largely immigrant workforce, many undocumented. Many are from Indigenous communities from southern Mexico who face even greater barriers to accessing services and reporting labor abuses.” Zucker said that the wildfires’ impacts on the workers are far-reaching. Some workers have reported experiencing chest pains and headaches after several days of working under harsh conditions. Each fire season, there are many farm workers who do not receive N95 masks to protect them from smoke. During the pandemic, these masks are even harder to come by. As such, farm workers are left to face the wildfire smoke and the virus in addition to heatwaves and drought. Zucker said employers need to provide workers with safety education and better protective gear. Via The Guardian Image via Bureau of Land Management

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Thousands of farm workers face extreme conditions in California

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