Sustainability Projects

As a commercial agricultural producer, BCFoods requires thousands of acres of farm land to grow tens of thousands of tons of produce. According to the World Resources Institute, only about a quarter of commercial agricultural producers measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions. We not only measure our emissions but also our effects on soil and ground water. We’re proud of the actions we take to reduce our environmental impact.

With partial funding from the Knorr Sustainability Partnership Fund, BCFoods is tackling the challenges of water waste, land erosion, pesticide overuse, soil and groundwater contamination, and loss of biodiversity.

We have implemented the latest technology, local education, and local partnerships to promote environmental sustainability throughout our vertically-integrated model, including at our farm bases and production facilities.

BCFoods is the first to bring sustainable practices to many areas where we are implementing eco-friendly programs. Click the arrows on the tabs below to explore specific sustainability projects that BCFoods is currently engaged in.

Soil Sampling for Sustainability    Soil sampling in onion field

Careful soil sampling provides nutrient and contaminant content, composition, and other characteristics such as volatile organic compounds, acidity, and pH level. To balance fertilization and reduce environmental impact, we regularly test the soil to monitor all the details above, including heavy metal level and pesticide residue. We also regularly conduct water tests to monitor irrigation water quality and use traps to monitor pest levels. As a result of stringent and regular testing, we can efficiently use agrochemicals and limit their use in our fields.

Biofertilizers are not just a collection of nutrients but rather a carrier medium rich in live microorganisms that interact symbiotically with the soil and crops growing in it. As a result, they increase the nitrogen and phosphorus available to crops more naturally than chemical fertilizers. In addition, they do not pollute the soil or the environment, whereas chemical fertilizers often result in an excess of phosphate and nitrogen, which then contaminates water runoff and affects greater areas than just where they were applied.

Wherever possible, crops grown by BCFoods are fertilized using biofertilizers rather than chemical fertilizers – and only as necessary. We also utilize crop rotation to naturally reestablish soil balance for the purpose of limiting the use of agrochemical fertilizers.

At a BCFoods farm base where our soil quality practices were recently established, pesticide use was cut by 50% from 2018 to 2019, reducing our use of Deltamethrin by 4kg.

Outdated flood and furrow irrigation     Sustainable subsurface drip irrigation

Furrow irrigation is a method of watering that utilizes trenches or “furrows” dug between crop rows in a field. The trenches are filled with water in order to water the crops on either side. This is also known as “flood and furrow irrigation” as the fields are flooded as part of this process.

While flood and furrow irrigation is inexpensive and effective, it is far from sustainable. It is an inherently erosive practice, resulting in soil and sediment loss through runoff. It also requires a high amount of water and is terribly inefficient regarding the amount of water runoff as opposed to water actually used by the crops.

Drip irrigation water efficiency is around ninety percent, as opposed to flood and furrow irrigation which generally has a water efficiency of closer to fifty percent. As a result, drip irrigation not only requires less water to provide for crops, it also causes far less erosion.

BCFoods is working to convert our bell pepper, garlic, and onion crops in China from flood and furrow irrigation to subsurface drip (bell pepper and onion) and sprinkler (garlic) irrigation. Thirty-five percent of our fields have already been converted since the project began in 2013.

BCFoods maintains over 500 acres of bell pepper agricultural fields. Converting this crop from the existing furrow irrigation to a sustainable drip irrigation system is a giant – and costly – undertaking. This is an exciting time to make this switch, as newer systems incorporate technology for greater sustainability.

Historically, sprinkler irrigation, while far more sustainable than furrow irrigation, has not been very water efficient. However, with new technology that measures weather and water saturation in soil, modern sprinkler irrigation is a sustainable method of irrigation.

Our investment in our water efficiency project, partially funded by the Knorr Sustainability Partnership Fund, includes weather stations with soil moisture probes. A related smartphone app incorporates forecast models, education materials, action alerts and thresholds. This technology will assist our on-site monitoring and physical control by providing environmental data including temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, soil moisture, and evaporation. This information, fed from the weather station to the smartphone app and then to equipment regulating the drip and sprinkler irrigation, helps automate both irrigation and chemigation.

By implementing this sustainable technology, we have already reduced water usage at these farm bases by over 30%. We intend to invest in adding this technology to other BCFoods farm bases throughout China, Mexico, India, and around the world.

Educating field workers on sustainable farming

BCFoods actively trains our farmers and suppliers on sustainable farming practices such as irrigation, water recycling/conservation, crop rotations, integrated pest management, fertilization, waste management and energy conservation.

To take education further and expand access to our knowledge base, BCFoods is partnering with universities to help grow awareness and educate the public on sustainable agricultural practices.

So far, this education program has been introduced in Shandong Agriculture University, and is coming soon to Liaocheng University. As an unexpected result of the education we have provided, locals are beginning to install solar paneling to power their homes.

Washing onions prior to dehydration     Thermal energy plant

The dehydration process requires a tremendous amount of water. Water is used to clean the vegetables before dehydration, removing soil and stones. An average 1-3MT of water is used for 1 MT of product. Afterward, the water is no longer potable. Wherever possible, we work with local businesses to properly reuse this water so it is not wasted.

For example, in one area of China, we work with a local thermal power plant. The power plant provides water to the dehydration facility. After being used for processing, the water is provided back to the thermal power plant for flue gas desulfurization and denitrification of the boiler.

At other locations, waste water from the dehydration process goes to sewage treatment facilities for treatment, then into urban pipes for reuse, agricultural irrigation, and other uses.

BCFoods volunteering at local food bankBCFoods recognizes the importance of supporting and promoting economic and social growth in the communities where we farm, produce our products, and conduct our operations.

As stated above, we are working with universities in areas where we have farm bases to provide relevant education and provide opportunity for locals to advance themselves, whether or not they are employed by BCFoods.

We mainly hire local labor, and purchase capital goods locally wherever possible.

In addition, BCFoods is active in local charitable organizations where we donate needed items and encourage employees to volunteer their time – often “on the clock” so they are further incentivized to contribute.

Follow Our Progress

Interested in learning more about sustainable actions BCFoods is taking to promote a better future? Check our News page from time to time or follow us on LinkedIn.

Michelle WestSustainability Projects