The Almond Board of California (ABC) has announced an investment of US$4.8 million in 64 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming practices. Additionally, ABC released the first annual Almond Sustainability Publication, entitled Growing Good, which highlights the California Almond community’s commitment to sustainability.
The announcement was made at the 45th annual Almond Conference, an event that convenes almond farmers and processors to dialogue with researchers about the latest science. The California Almond community, through ABC, has invested nearly US$70 million over 40 plus years to build a foundation of research on improving how almonds are grown, processed, and consumed. Growing Good highlights the industry’s continually evolving farming and processing best practices based on that research investment, which has built a foundation for continuous improvement that is helping almonds to be an economically, environmentally and socially responsible crop for California.
“Almond farmers’ growing practices and processors’ handling practices are rooted in science, and the almond industry has been investing in research that pushes the envelope and partnerships that break boundaries. This new sustainability publication highlights some of those efforts as well as programs that support responsible, efficient almond production,” says Almond Board Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Gabriele Ludwig. “One of those programs is The Almond Conference. Over the next few days, thousands of attendees will attend fifty plus sessions, a bustling trade show and other events, all while networking with their peers and researchers. It’s key to continuous improvement.”
Launched in 1973, ABC’s research programs provide a scientific basis for best practices across several priority areas. Three of those key areas include water sustainability, protection of honey bees that pollinate the almond crop, and new uses of almond hulls, shells, and woody materials in an effort to use everything produced in the orchard; a zero waste approach. Each of these focus areas are highlighted in Growing Good.
Almonds grow in a shell, protected by a hull, on a tree, and the California Almond community has ensured that each of these coproducts is put to beneficial use through investment in 58 research projects since 1977, totaling US$1.6 million. Nine studies have been funded this year with a commitment of US$540,000 to determine how almond coproducts may address needs across food, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, automotive, and more.
“Almond Board of California, in collaboration with our industry partners, is working every day to bring profitable, innovative solutions for coproducts back to farmers and processors. Having a robust economic outlook while remaining committed to environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive, which is why I’m excited to be a part of this effort,” said Chico almond farmer and research collaborator, Rory Crowley.
Almond sustainability for the future
Continued commitment to scientific research is helping the California Almond community grow the farm of the future, as reflected in Growing Good. The publication, the first of its kind for the Almond Board, highlights almond farmers’ and processors’ heritage of sustainability and commitment to continuous improvement while shining a spotlight on key Almond Board programming supporting those goals.
Key points of interest from the 2017 publication include:
v 50 percent of almond processors are utilizing solar energy at their facilities, according to a spatial analysis
v 78 percent of almond orchards today use efficient micro-irrigation, up from 70 percent in 2014
v 94 percent of almond farms coordinate with beekeepers about what pest control materials may need to be used during bloom and how the beekeepers will be notified in advance
“We are family farmers. For the most part, we live on our farms or very close by to them, raise our kids here and want them to inherit our farms and our companies,” says Almond Board President and CEO, Richard Waycott. “When we think about improving our industry across the myriad areas of opportunity, it also involves wanting to make a better environment for our children and grandchildren. Research investment plays a huge role in this future.”