The CEO of a potato seed supplier discusses how he is making his business more sustainable
- Gerard Backx is the CEO of the potato supplier business HZPC.
- Backx discusses his company’s techniques for breeding better potatoes through a sustainable supply chain.
- This article becomes part of Changemakers’ Playbook, a series that takes a look at development throughout various markets.
Potato seed company HZPC is taking a look at how to embed more sustainability in its supply chain. However that is not all: CEO Gerard Backx informs us the business is also attempting to breed better potatoes.
How are you making your potato seed organization more sustainable?
I had a lot of issues to resolve in the start, and we only really started to work on corporate social obligation 10 years ago. When I thought of what we might do, my initial sensation was that seeds are a food source– so there isn’t much to surpass.
Potatoes are a really sustainable product to start with since they produce the most significant quantity of food with the tiniest amount of water. They grow in an extremely short time– often as short as 90 days, compared with 150 days for cereals– which implies you’re utilizing less water.
But in fact, we can do rather a lot more. In our structures, for example, we can take a look at lowering energy use, waste, and water use. We also consider the energy footprint of our transport vessels when delivering seeds throughout the world.
But that’s still not how you can really differentiate yourself as far as corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned. What we can contribute are brand-new varieties that can help to enhance ecological effect in the future.
We attempt to develop different illness resistances to make sure that our potatoes can be grown without or with an extremely reduced amount of pesticides. Of course, yield is very important, too, because if you can produce more product on the exact same amount of land with the very same quantity of energy, then you are more sustainable.
What was it like carrying out sustainability programs at HZPC? Is your industry on board with CSR?
I believe that great sustainability thinking and revenue generation go together. And it didn’t cost us a big amount, however it is tough to stabilize the cost.
The other big trouble was altering people’s mindsets– both workers within the company and our farmers’ in the supply chain. If their thinking is restricted to short-term expenses, and they arrange logistics by purchasing the cheapest containers or trucks, then that is not constantly helpful for the business’s sustainability goals.
However if you say you wish to go for the very best, you have to define what that is initially, and it requires to be really well gone over and understood by all stakeholders.
The processing market, for example, for French fries, is putting a lot of believed into CSR due to the fact that the market is consumer-facing, and companies such as McDonald’s are therefore promoting the standard in the supply chain.
What are a few of the current innovations in seed potatoes?
The huge markets are not changing that much, however we have actually brought brand-new concepts to the marketplace, such as colored potatoes, which are particularly valued around Christmas.
Another example is the low-carb French fry. We are not in the French fry organization because we are a seed potato company, but someone who is diabetic pertained to us and asked whether it was possible to produce French fries without the carbs. We attempted to play around a bit with that, and we ended up with low-carb French french fries. We have actually now released this concept, Leon & León Fries, and we are searching for a buyer. It’s a minimal market, obviously, so we need to plan it extremely carefully.
But we also have a profit-sharing plan with the growers whereby they earn a bit additional. It makes our business more sustainable, and for the growers, it is appealing to produce our potatoes as they can make money from a great market.
Do you have a position on gene editing?
We have actually publicly come out on this subject. We have permission to deal with this method in our labs, but it is only used in the field outside Europe because here gene editing is thought about to be comparable to GMO. So we will have to use these products in markets outside of the EU, such as Canada and India, where they are not categorized as GMO.
As plant breeders, we desire to advance and improve our potatoes. And we can enhance all sort of functions for climate factors: heat tolerance, drought tolerance, and illness resistance. That is possible with gene modifying, which I don’t think about to be the exact same as genetic modification or GMO. GMO is when you move a gene from a bell pepper to a potato– from one types to another. For example, producing more drought-tolerant potatoes in the classic method may take us three or 4 decades, whereas we can achieve the very same development in a couple of years’ time with gene modifying.
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