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Food packaging: Dole introduces reduced-water packing process

Dole Food Company, Inc. announced that Dole’s division Standard Fruit de Costa Rica has introduced a new system that will significantly reduce the environmental impact of its banana harvesting and packing operations. The innovative process, called the New Millennium Packing System, specifically targets reducing the use of water by a factor of 10 and energy use by 50%, compared to a traditional packing plant.

“This new achievement demonstrates Dole’s commitment to address water use, one of the most crucial agricultural issues for the years to come. The concept has recently been extended to a Dole operation in Honduras and an additional farm in Costa Rica will begin with the New Millennium system by the end of the year,” said Roberto Vega, Dole’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager who represents Dole in the Water Footprint Network.

This new system is especially significant due to the fact that the banana packing process requires extensive water use, in particular for holding fruit prior to selection and providing a residence time for latex removal. In 2009, Standard Fruit de Costa Rica embarked on a complete redesign of its banana harvesting and packing process in order to substantially reduce water and energy use.

The renovation began with a holistic analysis of the flow of bananas from field to packing. The harvesting and product selection process were substantially revamped allowing many of the packing tasks to be done closer to the field. As a result, by the time the fruit reaches the packing location, approximately half the activities required to prepare the bananas for packing have already occurred. This dramatically reduces the need for water and energy.

“The total impact of this system, if implemented on a regional level, would allow the banana industry to save over sixty million cubic meters of water used in packing. As climate change affects water availability in the developing world, solutions such as our New Millennium Packing System have the potential to free enough water to provide for the needs of a population of over 30,000 people per year,” said Danilo Roman, General Manager, Standard Fruit de Costa Rica, and main sponsor of the program.

Hal Hamilton, Co-Director of the Sustainable Food Lab (www.sustainablefoodlab.org), recently visited Dole’s banana plantation in Costa Rica during his organization’s annual summit last week. “There are two things that make this project quite unique. First of all, the development team includes people from all backgrounds from field workers to supervisors. Secondly, most innovation projects focus just on productivity. In this case, the search for beneficial environmental impacts such as water and electricity use is driving the innovation.”

Dole, with 2009 net revenues of $6.8 billion, is the world’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas. Dole markets a growing line of packaged and frozen fruit and is a produce industry leader in nutrition education and research.

SOURCE: Dole Food Company, Inc.


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