Sunday, August 14, 2022

Seeka sets sights on being carbon neutral

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks says the company’s category 1 emissions have fallen 4% since 2019.

New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit grower Seeka is on its way to being carbon neutral by 2050 but still plans to expand.

“We operate in fast-growing industries, and we intend to continue expanding through a planned increase in New Zealand kiwifruit crops,” chief executive Michael Franks said.

Against that backdrop, it is benchmarking intensity-based performance indicators to capture efficiency gains as the business grows.

“We are measuring the carbon impact of fruit handled by Seeka which, at 50.7 tonnes of C02e per 100,000 class 1 trays packed, is trending down over the past three years, demonstrating early gains from our carbon reduction initiatives.”

The company has committed to reducing its verified carbon footprint by 30% by 2025, and 50% by 2030, before reaching carbon neutral 20 years later.

NZX-listed Seeka’s carbon footprint was 19,864 tonnes of CO2e in 2021 versus 19,200 in 2020, but in May 2021 it increased the kiwifruit business by more than 20% when it bought Opotiki Packing and Cool Storage.

According to the company, its category 1 emissions have fallen 4% since 2019.

The main source of its category 1 emissions are refrigerants leaking from coolstore equipment, fossil fuels and fertilisers.

By minimising refrigerant leaks and losses, and upgrading to carbon-neutral alternatives, Seeka has decreased the refrigerant footprint of coolstore operations by 38% in two years.

It has reduced synthetic nitrogen application rates by 41% since 2019, mainly by switching to naturally-occurring organic nitrogen, and by only replenishing the nitrogen.

Its category 2 emissions come indirectly from purchased services and the main source is electricity, for powering graders, coolstores and lighting.

Those emissions have lifted 14% since 2019, including an 11% contribution to 2021 category 2 emissions from the newly-acquired OPAC business.

The packing and cool storage of kiwifruit is a “significant” consumer of energy, Seeka said.

“The absolute carbon intensity for this category has increased over time, primarily impacted by the purchase of OPAC and the associated increase in crop volumes handled by Seeka facilities.”

Regarding its carbon reduction initiatives, it pointed to solar installations, LED lighting and sensors, transitioning to zero-carbon refrigerants, hybrid and all electric vehicles, maximising fruit sales, waste reduction and regenerative horticulture.

Examples include net bagging of small or odd-shaped kiwifruit and avocado under the “odd bunch programme”.

Also, 413 tonnes of unsaleable avocados were pressed to recover 42,000 litres of high-quality avocado oil at SeekaFresh’s avocado press, and 625 tonnes of unsaleable Hayward and SunGold kiwifruit were pulped and processed by Seeka’s Delicious Nutritious Food Company (DNFC) into the functional food Kiwi Crush and nutritional treat Kiwi Crushies, which are directly marketed by SeekaFresh.

Separately, T&G Global – the fruit marketer controlled by Germany’s BayWa – said it signed NZ’s first sustainability-linked loan in the horticulture sector – borrowing $180 million.

The loan commits T&G to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target that aligns with limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The loan also requires T&G to do a comprehensive climate risk adaptation plan to enable it to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, and create permanent job opportunities and career pathways to help boost regional development.

“By working with our principal banks, Rabobank and BNZ, as joint sustainability coordinators (as well as participation from HSBC and Westpac), we’ve structured a loan that sets clear and meaningful targets, which upon delivery, will deliver improved cost of capital and embed sustainability within T&G,” Doug Bygrave, T&G chief financial officer said.

As part of the loan financing, T&G will pay lower loan costs if it achieves the sustainability targets, and will have to pay penalties if these aren’t met.

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