ZESPRI quantifies kiwifruit water footprint

Media Release - 01 July 2011

In a New Zealand first, ZESPRI has undertaken a comprehensive investigation of the water footprint across the lifecycle of green kiwifruit as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainable production and sustainable future growth.

The study, completed by Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research and AgriLink New Zealand and co-funded by ZESPRI and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It has the aim of developing a method for measuring the environmental impact of the water footprint of products.

ZESPRI’s General Manager Quality and Innovation Dr David Tanner said taking a leading position on sustainability is critical to support ZESPRI’s premium position in the market, where there is increasing scrutiny from retailers and consumers to verify the environmental credentials of products.

“It makes good business sense to identify the eco-efficient advantages that come from reducing our total water footprint. This means ZESPRI is future proofing itself as customers become increasingly focused on the water footprint of the products they purchase,” Dr Tanner said.

The research found of the total water used during the production of one piece of kiwifruit only two litres was from irrigation. The national average of the total amount of water consumed per kiwifruit produced on the orchard was 42 litres.

Landcare Research Project Leader, Dr Anthony Hume, said using one of the methods advocated by the Water Footprint Network, the research found that at the orchard 85 percent of the water used in the life cycle of ZESPRI kiwifruit was ‘green’ water, or rainwater and moisture retained in the root zone.

Plant and Food Research Science Group Leader, Dr Brent Clothier, said the great news from the research was the majority of the water used in the production of kiwifruit comes directly from rainwater, some part of which even replenishes groundwater.

Of the remaining water five percent was ‘blue’ water, or renewable surface or groundwater used for irrigation, and 10 percent was ‘grey’ water, or the volume of water needed to dilute any orchard inputs, for example nitrogen fertilizer, to a level better than drinking water standards.

Dr Tanner said ZESPRI partnered with the agencies and opened up its entire supply chain for fruit grown in New Zealand and exported to Europe for the purposes of the study.

“This type of research is increasingly gaining international recognition with several different methods being developed in parallel. For ZESPRI, being involved in the study is both an important step for our own understanding of these different methods, as well as making a contribution to global knowledge on water use.

“Increasing pressure on the world’s water resource is a significant issue on the agenda of Governments, NGOs and retailers. Part of ZESPRI’s commitment to sustainability is developing local solutions to global issues.

“This allows ZESPRI to underline its commitment to sustainability by gaining a better understanding of water use and reduction opportunities across the supply chain from the orchard to the market,” Dr Tanner said.

Dr Hume said the use of product-orientated carbon and water footprinting measures within the kiwifruit industry serves as a good example of how building knowledge through targeted research can produce significant improvement in environmental performance.

The study follows ZESPRI being the first kiwifruit marketer globally to undertake a comprehensive review of the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of the New Zealand Kiwifruit, which was released in 2009.

Dr Tanner said ZESPRI had committed to triple its export earnings from $1 billion to $3 billion by 2025. The water and carbon footprint studies are a vital part of this strategy to support efficient resource use and preservation of the natural environment that underpins the business.

Note: When reviewing the ZESPRI® Kiwifruit water footprint number it is important to remember that there is no current, globally accepted methodology for measuring water footprints, so making direct comparisons of water consumption between products is difficult. The Water Footprint Network (WFN), a global organisation established to develop broadly shared global standards on water footprint accounting, has measured the global average water footprint of a number of products. These can be seen at www.waterfootprint.org.

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