Potato
& Waste

Utilising the whole potato

Sustainability report 2015-2016

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The Broader Context

There are a number of issues impacting the way society views agricultural production and waste. One example is food wastage. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimate that each year around 30 percent of the food produced for human consumption is either lost in the food supply chain or wasted before it can be consumed. Aside from the moral issue – of wasting food when so many people on the planet suffer food shortages – food loss and wastage also has a number of very real environmental and economic impacts.

 

Challenges in sustainable agriculture

Environmentally, it creates an inefficiency in the way we use the available agricultural land and water. It also leads to an (avoidable) increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Economically, it leads to losses for everyone in the food chain: from farmers who invest money but fail to capitalise on sales, to consumers who pay for the food but fail to eat it. Another challenge is the effect several Plant Protection Products (PPPs) have on the environment, impacting soil fertility, biodiversity and human health. As certain EU member states already banned some PPPs, it is a topic that remains hotly debated and under investigation.

At Lamb Weston / Meijer, we closely monitor these developments and proactively look at how we can reduce our impact on planet and society, while providing safe, nutritious and affordable food. We continue to increase our resource efficiency, by increasing potato utilisation, preventing waste and valorising our by-products and waste streams as much as possible. Additionally, we are in the process of defining in more detail what sustainable agriculture means for our supply chain, and how to reduce the environmental impact of for example PPPs, while still ensuring a healthy crop with good yields for our farmers and high quality raw materials.

Objective

Our 2020 objective: to increase our potato utilization by 10 percent per tonne of consumed, finished product; to increase the valorisation of our by-products and waste streams; and to promote a more conscious consumption in our food chain, resulting in a reduced ecological footprint. This means we will need less land and fewer resources to produce the same amount of finished products.

2016 Results versus 2008 baseline

  • Our potato utilization improved by 4.5%
  • We send zero waste to landfill, and only 0.2% is incinerated
  • 99.8% of our by-products and waste is reused or recycled into useful destination
  • We source 100% Segregated CSPO palm oil

‘Two things have struck me about LW/M. The first is their approach to the concept of food waste. They look at the value of the potato and talk about how they can get more out of it, rather than how they can reduce waste. The second is how carefully they are monitoring resources along the chain. In my opinion this is vital to reduce waste and improve resource efficiency.’

 

Tekla ten Napel,
Senior Policy Advisor Food Quality,

Plant Supply Chain and Food Quality Department, Ministry of Economic Affairs,

The Hague, the Netherlands

‘The ultimate goal of by-products valorisation is to produce a total package of products from potatoes – so we extract all value from the potato, and waste nothing. And this ties into our view of the circular economy, where we believe we should waste nothing from any of the natural cycles, whether that’s from the land we grow the crops in, to the water and nutrients we use.’

 

Erik de Been,

Manager By-products Valorisation,
New Business Development,

Lamb Weston / Meijer,

Breda, the Netherlands

‘In a bid to tackle storage losses, we’ve had a number of grower and storage manager meetings, where we were introduced to a range of ideas and best-practices used on the Continent. We’ve also initiated bacteria checks on all our seed potatoes, and monitor our fields throughout the season to identify any areas that are going ‘bad’ so that we can separate them from the main crop during the harvest.’

 

Mike England,
Farm Manager,
Alby Farming Company

Alby, Norwich, United Kingdom

Key projects

We are working with stakeholders along the entire supply chain – from field to fork – to improve our potato utilisation and reduce losses and waste: from our growers to the RAW department, from our production plants to our customers. Below we explain two key projects that contribute to this subject.

Improved potato utilisation

Our potato utilisation has improved slightly since 2014 and is now 4.5 percent better than our baseline (2008). The main drivers for the slowdown in improvement of this index are the crop quality (e.g. lower potato solids) and our product mix. Producing higher grade added value potato products puts extra pressure on this utilization index compared to producing regular French fries.

Size scanners

We produce a wide variety of potato products, which are made from potatoes of different sizes. One of our key focus areas is to optimize the utilisation of all of the different potato sizes that we receive. One way to do that is to know the size profile of the potatoes before they arrive at our production plants. In 2015 we introduced (in-house developed) size scanners that allow us to do precisely that. The scanner more accurately measures the potatoes, thereby increasing the predictability of the crop before we receive it. This makes the production process more efficient by allowing us to optimize the usage of these potatoes into the right finished products which helps reduce losses through wastage.

 

Grading of the future

In 2015 we opened a state-of-the-art potato receiving area at our Kruiningen plant, which streamlines the sizing process. This has led to better raw usage and improved quality. The potatoes are washed before being sized and sorted to the right line. This step also reduces dust in the raw grading area, leading to a healthier working environment for our people. Based on our first-time-right principle, the potatoes are sized using optical sorting equipment. Potatoes are then stored in specific bins based on their size and on the type of end product that they will be used to produce. This increases quality and utilisation since the potatoes are only handled once, resulting in less bruising, reduced retention time and more accurate streaming, resulting in optimal first time right potato utilisation.

100% Segregated Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO)

In 2015 we switched from using 'Book & Claim' palm oil – purchasing palm oil from RSPO certified sustainably-producing mills, where the oil was handled with conventional palm oil – to 100 percent segregated RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. The switch may seem minor, yet it is an important step in our ambition to make our overall supply and value chain more sustainable, from harvest to home. Using 100 percent segregated certified RSPO sustainable palm oil (SG CSPO) supports our comprehensive sustainability strategy. We were awarded the 2015 Award from the Task Force for Sustainable Palm oil in the Netherlands for our active contribution to create a sustainable palm oil value chain. We now only use SG CSPO palm oil for products with palm oil in the specification.

Best practices in our plants

We rolled out a number of best practices across our plants, in line with planned equipment upgrades and our agreed investment strategy. For example:

  • We introduced our state-of-the-art eco-peeler across four of our plants. The eco-peeler removes potato peel more efficiently than traditional steam peelers, and uses 20 percent less steam per tonne of potatoes peeled.
  • We implemented Model Predictive Control (MPC) system at four of our five plants, helping to create more consistent quality levels. The MPC acts as an ‘automatic pilot’ for our production lines, adjusting process settings to optimize the process and removing subjective operator influence.
  • We installed optical sorters in the grading process at four of our plants, sorting the potatoes on length and improving line efficiency as potatoes are sorted prior to entering the main production line. This prevents processing of the wrong size of potatoes, reducing energy usage and cutting food loss and waste.

Cooperation with suppliers

  • We believe in nurturing and managing the relationships we have with our suppliers, who we view as vital partners. One example of the importance of these relationships is the installation of the optical sorters at our new potato receiving area at our Kruiningen plant. And we worked closely with our suppliers to install the optical sorters in the weighing room at two facilities, leveraging our internal expertise and technical resources, and ensuring on-time project completion.

Sustainable Agriculture & Agronomy

Precision farming

We continued to focus on precision farming, which helps the potato growers we work with to optimize input usage and to increase yields and potato quality. We worked on optimising the fertiliser input by intensively mapping the soil nutrients across a field, using GPS-guided equipment. We also continued to use drones as our ‘eye in the sky’ to capture aerial images of fields and crops, thus enabling us to follow crop development. These tools allow farmers to target their specific responses per field to reduce crop losses and increase crop yields and potato quality.

 

Learning from storage losses in crop year 2015

Following a challenging season in 2015, in which we experienced higher-than-normal potato losses during storage in the United Kingdom, we took the approach to learn from this event and to improve our approach towards storing of potatoes for all growing areas. We performed a root cause analysis in which we identified the main causes: quality of seed potatoes, weather conditions during harvesting, capability of store facilities and storing expertise. Secondly, we developed an agronomy improvement program, focusing on extra quality checks on seed potatoes, investment in better storage facilities, and a training program, in order to tackle the root causes and prevent storage losses. In 2016 we shared and implemented our learnings within other main growing areas to maximize the learnings in our total grower base and reduce our shared risk on future losses.

Valorisation of our by-products: moving to a circular economy

We are very proud that we can state that we have reached the stage where we are left with practically no real waste (only 0.2%) from our production processes. We have made huge strides in preventing and reducing food loss and waste, resulting in us sending zero waste to landfill1 and valorising our by-products and waste streams as much as possible. To make further progress within the sustainability arena, we have switched our focus from good disposal to a more functional and valuable valorisation and believe in the model of the circular economy.

In 2015, we added dedicated resources to the valorisation of by-products and developed a holistic strategy and programme to achieve this. One example is the work we started on the Dutch government-subsidised CARVE2 programme, which aims to minimise food waste and increase valorisation from producers, rather than consumers. We are presently working on producing other food products from potato peels. At the same time, we are developing several viable projects across the company to improve the valorisation of these streams. Our focus will be to continue to improve either how we valorise our current by-products, or use these stream to produce better products.

1: We discovered in Q1-2016 that our waste company in the UK sent our mixed company waste (0.05%) to landfill in FY15. We corrected this by tightening the contract and verified the waste destinations for all our plants to ensure that zero is 0.

 

2: In 2015, the Alliance for Sustainable Food and Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research started CARVE (across supply Chain Action program Reduction of food waste, improved Valorisation & resource Efficiency), a PPS project to reduce food wastage in the agro food chain.

Struvite

Outlook for 2017/2018

We will continue to increase our potato utilisation, by implementing best practices and developing new ones to generate 10 percent more finished products from our potato pile versus our 2008 baseline. Additionally, we will implement our advanced by-product valorisation strategy, so that we can further increase the value we create from our by-product streams, both environmentally and economically.

 

At the same time, we are going to define sustainable agriculture in its full scope and define in more detail what sustainable agriculture means for our supply chain, how it contributes to our goals, and the steps we’ll take to make it a reality within our company. We will look at how we can contribute to sustainable agriculture, by supporting our growers and cooperating with external partners.

Key challenges

One of our key challenges is that our potato utilisation – as produced – is impacted by nature with yearly differences in crop quality, resulting from specific climate and growing conditions. And as we move ahead on further improving our product mix with higher grade value added products, we know that this creates additional pressure on our utilisation improvement index. We decided to be brave and bold on this aspect and not correct for the above factors. We prefer to look at the long-term trend to define and make our impact, and continue to focus on growing and producing more sustainable.

 

To improve resource efficiency - as consumed - by 10 percent, we need our customers to also reduce food waste in their outlets. Our 2013 food losses and waste study told us that around eight percent of finished products is prepared in kitchens of our customers but does not reach the consumers’ plate. We are committed to reducing this and we need to work alongside our customers to look for ways to collaborate with them and other partners in the value chain to make it happen. We will develop pilot projects to see how we can support our customers in this area.