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The Pepsico 50 in 5 initiative - halving greenhouse gas emissions from potato production

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Since 2010 ADAS and PepsiCo have been working alongside Walkers Crisps’ UK potato growers with an aim to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from potato production by 50% in 5 years; the 50 in 5 initiative.  This ambitious project required engagement from all parts of the potato supply chain, especially the growers, with support from experts, including those from ADAS, and of course a will from PepsiCo to make it all happen.  At the end of the 5 years the Walkers Crisps potato growers have achieved an average reduction in GHG emissions of 50%.

The Pepsico 50 in 5 initiative - halving greenhouse gas emissions from potato production

The Aim

Global climate change has been recognised by the majority of businesses as a serious concern with a potential to impact on the performance of the business over the medium to long term.  However although the implications of climate change may not be immediate, there is a need to take action now to start reducing the emissions from global food production, in order to play a part in the overall global effort to reduce GHG emissions, the main contributing factor to climate change. 

The PepsiCo 50 in 5 initiative set out in 2010 to cut GHG emission in potato production by 50% in five years, reflecting a commitment to manage a range of economic and environmental challenges within the industry.  PepsiCo Walkers Crisps recognised that this goal could not be achieved without buy in and engagement from their growers and support from independent experts.  ADAS worked closely with both the growers and the team at PepsiCo to understand where the emissions hotspots were in potato production, plan actions to reduce the emissions and then monitor progress over time.  This work was facilitated through the use of the Cool Farm Tool, a crop product specific carbon calculator, to measure GHG emissions, and Carbon Management Plans, developed by ADAS to identify actions to reduce emissions in future years.

The innovative and ambitious project was a success, and completed at the end of the 2015 crop season marking a significant step forward for PepsiCo and its growers.

What was done?

The initial process involved engaging with growers and helping them to understand why PepsiCo wanted to deliver this challenging target, and the role that each individual grower would need to play in reducing the GHG emissions from their farming systems.  The growers were also introduced to the Cool Farm Tool (CFT) by ADAS and training was provided in its use.  Each year of the 5 year period, the growers completed the CFT to monitor their progress and results were collated for groups of farmers across UK and Europe with different production systems.  The CFT was used to highlight hotspots of emissions and Carbon Management Plans helped individual farmers identify GHG reduction opportunities on farm. This ongoing process of monitoring, planning improvement strategies, implementing those strategies and then monitoring again meant that growers were able to see how their actions were influencing the emissions from their farms.  ADAS were able to provide support and assistance to growers in the completion of the CFT, ADAS validated all CFT responses to ensure that they were an accurate reflection of what was happening in the field and then collated all the individual growers’ data to provide summaries of the annual returns to PepsiCo demonstrating progress towards their goals. 

Results

Although the growers were initially sceptical and wary of the project, the level of engagement and understanding of the reason for the project and the benefits to the business increased throughout the process.  The end result was that after 5 crop years the UK Walker’s Crisp potato growers had managed to reduce their emissions by 50%, doing their part for increasing the sustainability of our food supply chain. 

Reviewing the project it is clear savings have been made in a multitude of areas including:

  • Improved storage practice
  • Implementation of renewable energy sources on farm
  • Improvements in yield driven by switching to new varieties
  • Optimisation of nitrogen applications
  • Use of new technologies such as drip irrigation and GPS systems in tractors to reduce fuel usage

The project has also helped to engage with growers and increase their understanding of the need to reduce emissions and protect the environment.  Growers have been looking beyond carbon management and are taking further actions to reduce water use, encourage biodiversity and protect soils.  The actions taken by growers as part of the 50 in 5 programme have meant additional financial benefits through reduced inputs such as electricity, water and artificial fertilisers.

For further information about the PepsiCo 50 in 5 project see the promotional film here.

For details on how ADAS can help you engage with your supply chain to reduce emissions or on other areas of sustainability please contact

Sarah Wynn – Lead Sustainable Production – sarah.wynn@adas.co.uk

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