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Safeway sources from vertical farms

Safeway sources from vertical farms
Photo: Plenty

US retailer Safeway is making healthy greens more accessible to smaller communities by welcoming produce from vertical farming company Plenty to 17 more stores across Northern California — bringing the total number of stores carrying Plenty products in the region to 53, according to Progressive Grocer. The additional Albertsons-owned stores, which include Safeway and Vons, are part of a multiyear agreement between the two companies to expand Plenty produce into more than 430 Albertsons-owned stores across the state of California. The new store locations are primarily in smaller communities, making Plenty the first indoor vertically farmed produce available to these shoppers.

Plenty’s plant scientists, engineers and farmers have developed its indoor vertical-farming technology to grow nutrient-rich and pesticide-free plants year-round. Using data analytics, machine learning and customized lighting, the farming tech company is able to coax the natural flavours and nutrients from the plants. Plenty grows multiple crops in a building the size of a retail box store, yielding hundreds of acres using a fraction of the water and other precious resources.

In addition to debuting in more store locations, Plenty is debuting a first-of-its-kind Text-a-Farmer feature, on display next to its greens in stores. In the age of COVID, when human contact has been limited and in-person sampling restricted, Plenty’s texting feature connects with shoppers directly to answer questions and share information. Text-a-Farmer lets shoppers text questions while shopping and receive an answer directly from a Plenty farmer. Questions can cover anything related to Plenty and its produce, including “Do you use pesticides on your leafy greens,” “Is your packaging recyclable,” and “How do I keep my greens fresh longer?”

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COEXPHAL and PROEXPORT request EU support for circular economy in fruit and vegetable sector

COEXPHAL and PROEXPORT request EU support for circular economy in fruit and vegetable sector
Photo: Proexport

The Association of Organisations of Producers of Fruits and Vegetables of Almería (COEXPHAL) together with the Association of Producers-Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables of the Region of Murcia (PROEXPORT) have applied to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) for funds to set up a project with an estimated budget of €69 million aimed at advancing the sustainability of the fruit and vegetable sector in south-eastern Spain.

This Expression of Interest brings together a series of innovation and investment initiatives with defined objectives. These include promoting the circular economy in the entire fruit and vegetable value chain by reducing environmental footprints, helping to mitigate climate change by reducing the carbon footprint, contributing to the decarbonisation of the economy, improving biodiversity in the fruit and vegetable environment – in the production and marketing of fruits and vegetables – and guarantee the activity with the protection and improvement of the use of water.

To achieve this, the presented project includes three major measures:

  • Collect information on the technologies available for said objectives such as the recovery of waste, water, reduction of environmental footprints, energy, biodiversity, etc., and create a tool to enable the companies and cooperatives of both associations to obtain a diagnosis as a starting point.

  • Promote a set of research and innovation projects aimed at implementing the circular economy in the fruit and vegetable value chain, especially in the field of plant by-products and waste, as well as in water.

  • Influence an innovative investment by companies in available technologies to reduce environmental footprints and investments in technologies and biotechnologies generated in the project itself: recovery of waste, purification and reuse of water, revegetation of the agricultural environment and development of smart labels.

This Circular Economy Expression of Interest, promoted by COEXPHAL and PROEXPORT, has the support of the Almería Chamber of Commerce and the Sustainability Area of ​​the Almería City Council.

Expressions of Interest are an instrument for identifying projects that point towards two of the four axes on which the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan of the Spanish economy acts. The Spanish Recovery Plan, inspired by the Climate Change Agenda, the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, will receive €72 million in the next three years from the Next Generation EU Recovery Fund, approved by the European Council on July 21.


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Freshfel Europe launches pan-European environmental footprint project

Freshfel Europe launches pan-European environmental footprint project © Freshfel Europe

© Freshfel Europe


Last week, Freshfel Europe reviewed the status of environmental footprint initiatives in the fresh produce industry with its members and decided to move forward towards a more collective approach for the sector. While the fresh produce sector’s sustainability journey began many years ago, there is still a lack of comparable data used in environmental footprints, which prevents consistency and accountability of the sector in responding to evolving legislative and customer requirements. Such an initiative will allow the supply chain to have its sustainability efforts better recognized in standards and in the Farm to Fork Strategy debate based on agreed Products Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PFEFCR).

Leading representatives of European production (Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain) as well as key traders and retailers from the Freshfel Europe membership met on 18 February in an interactive session to kick-start discussions on the next steps for the fresh produce supply chain on environmental footprint initiatives to respond to increasing demand for comparable data and a harmonized methodology to secure operators’ accountability regarding product environmental impact. Providing a more collaborative and collective response to this challenge is a must from a business perspective. It is also consistent with the European Commission’s European Green Deal priorities, where both the Farm to Fork Strategy and new Circular Economy Action Plan call for increased sustainability accountability to enable consumers to make sustainable food choices and reduce the risk of ‘green washing’. This entails the need for reliable, comparable and verifiable data.

Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard commented on the success of the meeting stating, “Freshfel Europe has an important role to play for the European fruit and vegetable sector in raising awareness about environmental footprint and acting as the catalyst for collective action. This will prevent the proliferation of solutions that will in the end lead to unnecessary costs and confusion”. Now more than ever retailers are requiring environmental performance information and the supply chain needs to provide this to respond to consumers’ awareness of sustainability aspects, which is increasingly driving purchase decisions. Investors are additionally increasingly eager to financially support companies with sustainability ambitions that can be clearly demonstrated.

Freshfel Europe members agreed on the urgency to move forward and collectively build a strategy for the sector that will tackle the different aspects of the often-complex environmental footprint matters. Building a harmonised methodology, collecting generic and secondary data for products, as well as establishing a user-friendly environmental footprint tool are key for companies to guarantee that their own calculations are comparable to others in the supply chain and that they can provide consistent data to business partners. Nicola Pisano, Freshfel Europe Sustainability and Health Director, highlighted the importance of this work commenting, “Progress in this dossier will help Freshfel Europe members to better respond to the ambitions of the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Circular Economy.

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Sonae MC leads the way in sustainability

Sonae MC leads the way in sustainability according to Ellen MacArthur Foundation report © Ellen MacArthur Foundation

© Ellen MacArthur Foundation


Sonae MC has been named Portugal’s top retailer for its use of reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Annual Report, which reports on the progress across the 400 or so signatories of the New Plastics Economy global commitment. The Portuguese retailer was also one of the best-performing global retailers among the signatories, ranking fourth in terms of the percentage of reusable plastic incorporated in its packaging (13.4%), surpassing companies like Starbucks and Delhaize.

Sonae MC ranks seventh in terms of the percentage (55%) of effectively reused, recyclable or compostable packaging, ahead of groups such as Carrefour, Marks & Spencer and Walmart.

Set up in 2018, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative is supported by the UN Environment Programme and aims to bring forward to 2025 the European goals set for 2030.The main ambitions are to eliminate unnecessary plastic objects, redesign packaging, focus on innovation so that all plastic is reusable, recyclable or compostable, and ensure that all plastic is used in a circular way and dissociated from the consumption of finite resources. For Sonae MC, the challenge is to guarantee a circular economy in which not only the life time of the material is prolonged, but also avoiding its disposal in nature or incineration as undifferentiated waste.

Sonae MC has set a 2025 deadline for all of its own Continente branded plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective way. Continente has been implementing several measures within its Strategy for the Responsible Use of Plastics, both in terms of its dealings with logistics firms and suppliers, as well as at an internal level and by raising consumer awareness. In 2020, Continente saved over 4,200 tons of virgin plastic, representing a 90% growth compared to the 2,200 tons/year announced in April 2019.

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Innovative compostable film packaging to extend shelf life

Innovative compostable film packaging to extend shelf life - TIPA and Perfotec © Perfotec

© TIPA and Perfotec


Compostable packaging producer TIPA and shelf-life extension specialist PerfoTec have teamed up to create laser micro-perforated compostable film packaging that can extend the shelf-life of fresh produce. The packaging performs as conventional plastic but decomposes in compost back into the soil with no toxic residue, microplastics or other pollutants.

The partnership comes in response to consumer demand to reduce food waste and combat plastic pollution, as some 85% of UK consumers believe compostable packaging should be used to wrap food as an alternative to plastic.

“After months of trials with this film, we realised that TIPA’s compostable film combined with PerfoTec’s patented laser perforation provided the best shelf-life for fruits, vegetables and flowers by far. It provides longer shelf-life and freshness which means fewer quality losses, less food waste and cost savings for producers and retailers,” said PerfoTec’s CEO Bas Groeneweg. “Partnering with TIPA to create compostable packaging that can outperform conventional plastic is a hugely exciting step forward for sustainable packaging. We’re delighted to be playing our part in the stride against quality losses, food waste and plastic pollution.”

Ayellet Zinger, VP of sales for TIPA said: “In combining our technologies, TIPA and PerfoTec form a synergistic partnership that optimises flexible packaging for produce. We have created an exceptional product that extends the shelf-life of fruit, vegetables and flowers with a protective and fully compostable film that decomposes just like the product it’s packaging. TIPA and PerfoTec bring huge added value for flexible produce packaging, reducing food and packaging waste, and providing solutions for the future of sustainable packaging.”

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San Telmo and Ecoembes unite for a sustainable future

San Telmo and Ecoembes unite for a sustainable future

San Telmo Business School, which trains senior managers of consumer goods companies has teamed up with and Ecoembes, a non-profit environmental organisation that coordinates the recycling of packaging throughout Spain, in an alliance to jointly promote the role of companies in creating a circular economy, as well as to identify possible public-private collaboration strategies for the same purpose.

Both institutions promote the added value that sustainability brings to companies in Spain to satisfy consumer demand. Thus, within this alliance, various practical sessions will be held, along with round tables with leading CEOs, traveling classrooms and tailor-made projects for specific companies. A key event will be a discussion titled: “Public-private collaboration as a boost to the Circular Economy”, which will feature, from the San Telmo Business School, Enrique Garrido, and the CEO of Ecoembes, Óscar Martín.

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Edeka expands Apeel to grapefruits and lemons

Edeka expands Apeel to grapefruits and lemons © Edeka

© Edeka


As of the start of this year, grapefruits and lemons also receive the plant-based Apeel protective coat. The longer-lasting vitamin C miracles are now available throughout Germany at Edeka, Marktkauf and Netto Marken-Discount. They are the newest members of the Apeel range after avocados, oranges, clementines and mandarins. The Edeka network is thus expanding its commitment to increasingly sustainable ranges and is once again setting a sign in the fight against food waste.

According to the Food Report 2020 of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), 12 million tons of total or about 75 kilograms of food per person are disposed of in Germany every year. The Apeel formula of plant origin gives the surface of fresh products a kind of second skin, which acts like an additional protective coat. The Apeel protective layer ensures that less water from the inside can evaporate through the actual shell and at the same time less oxygen can penetrate from the outside.

An optimal microclimate is created under the second skin: the fruit can continue to breathe while the maturation process slows down considerably. This means that Apeel products stay fresh for longer – with an unchanged enjoyment experience, as neither the taste nor the smell of the food is affected.

The shelf life of the products is significantly extended by Apeel – with consistently high quality. At the beginning of 2020, a pilot trial in 2,900 Edeka markets and net stores over twelve weeks showed that the amount of avocados that had to be sorted out in the market was reduced by 50% thanks to Apeel, while customer demand in the participating markets increased significantly.

Apeel is an innovative process developed by the US company Apeel. Vegetable fats – lipids and glycerolipids – are used, which are contained in the skins, seeds and pulp of all fruits and vegetables. Accordingly, the Apeel protective layer consists of components that are also consumed regularly as part of a normal diet. Thus, Apeel differs in principle from approaches in which a synthetically produced sugar derivative is applied.

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European Commission presents results of study on organic agriculture in developing countries

European Commission presents results of study on organic agriculture in developing countries © European Commission

© European Commission


The European Commission held an online conference on organic agriculture in developing countries on 27th January. Under the title: ‘A realistic pathway? Evidence from long-term systems research’, the results of 12 years of comparative farming systems research in Kenya, Bolivia and India were presented to provide scientific evidence on economic and ecological sustainability of organic and conventional systems. 

The findings illustrate how organic systems and other agroecological approaches can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs aim to end poverty and other deprivations. There is substantial evidence illustrating that dominant agricultural management practices are not sustainable for the future. 

Organic agriculture is proposed as an alternative, but its performance under tropical conditions is questioned as long-term studies are scarce. The conference addressed whether organic agriculture is a realistic pathway for smallholders in the Global South and if it can support the transformation of food systems. Furthermore, it addressed some key issues of the SDGs such as responsible consumption and production as well as eliminating poverty and hunger. 

The report ‘What is the contribution of organic agriculture to sustainable development? A synthesis of twelve years (2007-2019) of the long-term farming systems comparisons in the tropics (SysCom)’ was launched and the results presented at the conference. Finally, the results were reflected in the view of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) with regards to its work on agroecology.

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Sustainability – 1.3 million fewer foam separators in grape packaging in the last 2 years

Sustainability - 1.3 million fewer foam separators in grape packaging in the last 2 years
Photos: KÖLLA

KÖLLA is aware of the importance of sustainable packaging and wants to contribute to its consistent implementation. “Since 2017, we have been working on a concept for our core competence, grapes. The packaging of loose grapes had to become more sustainable,” says Italy expert Angela D‘Antuono. “At that time, KÖLLA already packed part of the loose goods in paper bags to save on using the separating strips made of foam and to test the acceptance of paper packaging.” In 2018, KÖLLA developed a separator strip model that reduced by 50% the foam separators in multi-way trays.

However the goal of completely moving away from foam and thus avoiding lots of packaging waste had not yet been achieved. The research continued. Then in 2019, a discovery that could be put to test. A strip of paper, strong enough to hold the grapes, covered with a layer of natural wax, allowing it to be coloured and also compostable. After extensive testing, this version was presented to the food retailers. Firstly in a unprinted version and since 2020 in the customers’ design.

With this development, KÖLLA has reduced packaging waste by more than 1.3 million foam separators in the season of 2019/2020 alone. Accordingly, only compostable paper separator strips will be used for KÖLLA’s own brands OTELLO and Emilie in 2021.

About us:

Since 100 years, the KÖLLA Group participates successfully in the global fruit and vegetable trade from its own offices in Bern, Kaarst, Munich, Valencia, Perpignan, Bolzano, Venlo, London an Izmir. The company possesses a broad and deep network of relationships with customers and production within the EU and overseas and is certified according to ISO’22000 / 9001 and EU Bio, in Switzerland additionally with BIO SWISS.

KÖLLA’s own-brands OTELLO, Alinda and Emilie among others underline the experience in cultivation, quality assurance, trade and logistics of fruit and vegetable products.

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GLOBALG.A.P. delays launch of new IFA standard

GLOBALG.A.P. delays launch of new IFA standard © GLOBALG.A.P.

Workflow of the new version of the Integrated Farm Assurance Standard © GLOBALG.A.P.


GLOBALG.A.P. has decided to postpone the launch of version 6 of the Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) Standard until 2022 in light of the ongoing pandemic.

According to a statement issued by the certification body: “We have seen a very successful first round of public consultation. Hundreds of people have taken part in our ongoing World Consultation Tour and we have received over 1000 comments. Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic has hindered participation from many important parties, such as certification bodies and focus groups. Rather than launch a standard which is not fully consulted and tested, the GLOBALG.A.P. Board has decided to extend the timeline of development. The extension will allow more time for stakeholders to give their input and more time for sufficient testing. Field trials, which are critical for testing the new approach on farm level and assessing its audibility before the launch, and a third public consultation period will take place in 2021.”  

The launch of version 6 was originally planned for September 2021, with obligatory implementation as of September 2022. The timeline has now been extended as follows: The second draft will be available for the second consultation phase in December 2020. The second round of the World Consultation Tour will also begin in December 2020 and continue into the new year. The field trials – originally planned for December 2020 to Jan 2021 – will take place in May to June 2021, alongside an additional public consultation period (#3).

Version 6 will be finalised and published in April 2022, with the usual transition period of one year. It will therefore become obligatory in April 2023.