Using minimal natural resources and harmful materials for the environment along with emissions of waste and pollutants, preserving the environment for future generations.
Water > The high rainfall levels we have in the South of Ireland provide more than enough water to keep our field-grown foliage crops happy, which means that we use no irrigation on our plantations. Our current water usage is a little under 1 million litres annually which is mainly water in buckets to keep produce fresh during transport. This means that we are just using .04 litres per stem on the 25 million stems exported each year from Ireland.
Weed control > We are constantly looking at ways to reduce our use of herbicides. Once our crops are established and get to 3 years old we use little or no herbicides with weed control done mechanically. Currently we are trialling the use of cover crops and sheep to supress weeds within our plantations.
Biodiversity > Protecting the life of flora and fauna on land is something that we place great value on. Over one third of our production area is on recently developed greenfield sites where we have been applying all our learnings and taking protective measures to ensure that and wildlife is not harmed during our expansion and cultivation of crops. We have organised these sites to ensure minimal disturbance for the natural life on these lands including retaining hedgerows, developing tram lines as wildlife corridors, and adopting integrated pest management practices. The hedgerows are important for the protection of the local flora and fauna present in the site and offers them shelter and the stability of the ecosystem and we calculate that 30% of these sites remain unplanted for these purposes. The crops that we grow on our sites also provide pollen for several bee species which they in turn use to pollinate the ecosystem. In our recently acquired Castleisland site, we have established a waterway to help the local wildlife who are present on the land, and it has become home to a variety of insects, herons and is used as a watering hole for other animals on the site. 80% of the crops that we cultivate are grown without the use of any insecticides, with minimal use on the remaining 20%.
Soil Nutrients > The species we grow for foliage production are low nutrient demanders. We complete regular soil and foliar analysis and only apply necessary fertilisers to our plants. We have low fertiliser application on our crops with and are currently investigating an organic alternative for this process. Over 20% of our current crops are now grown without chemical fertilizers. Along with our tailored nutrition plans, we are also exploring alternative ways of strengthening our crops through natural means such as the addition of locally produced compost, mycorrhizal fungi, and bio stimulant products. Waste foliage is composted on site, and we are currently exploring possibilities for using this material in our plant propagation unit.
Plastics > We reuse and recycle packaging materials as much as possible. The plastic buckets used in the transport of our foliage are made from recyclable materials and are reused in a variety of ways after, including crop protection. In our newest site, we trialled using 5,000 plastic buckets as a method of crop protection to great success and are currently expanding the use of his method. This method has created a microclimate, where the crop doesn’t dry out and is protected from both the wind and wildlife such as rabbits and hares.
Other Research > With increasing pressure from climate change, our goal is to develop more robust plantations to cope with increasing weather events. We have established a Eucalyptus provenance trial incorporating species that we know grow well in Ireland but from seed sourced from high elevation, exposed sites in Australia. We are working with several consultants in the horticulture/life sciences field, including Teagasc, leading university professors and other leaders in the industry who all have a wealth of experience in horticulture and biodiversity and apply any learnings quickly for improving biodiversity in our sites. Forest Produce is an active member of the South-West circular bioeconomy cluster based at Munster Technological University. Here we connect with other likeminded businesses to share information and resources with the common goal of improving our environment, knowing that we can do this better together.
We have appointed a sustainability officer and champion in the company who will oversee all of our efforts in achieving our sustainability targets, liaise with others in the field who can offer advice and set out new targets and goals for us to reach.
• To continue research into alternate and natural methods of pest control and fertilisation as part of our commitment to responsible consumption and production.
• Reduce our herbicide usage by 50% in the next 3 years
• Set up a sustainability advisory board to the company through the contacts we have made throughout our years of business
• Have our sustainability lead/champion to take charge of our sustainability efforts and regularly update our efforts and goals.
• Become a member of the FSI 2025 Initiative and match our sustainable efforts to their guidelines.
• Utilise organic fertilisers predominantly by 2025 and totally by 2030.
• Half our water usage by 2025 through the deployment of rainwater collection systems.
• While we are currently only using a small number of plastic buckets, it is a method we are planning on exploring as a primary method of crop protection. We plan to increase our usage of this method as we plant new crops.