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Sustainable harvest - sensibly and consciously

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Austria Juice has set itself the goal of harvesting 100% of the entire goods from sustainable sources by 2030.

As a member of the Sustainable Juice Covenant (IDH), AUSTRIA JUICE is part of a consortium of several large companies in the beverage industry, who want to achieve a common goal by 2030: to produce 100 percent of the goods in a verifiably sustainable manner.

The focus is on the entire supply chain, which is checked and guaranteed on the basis of individual sustainability certifications of the respective companies. Common rules are the basis for achieving this goal in a transparent and measurable way for everyone. Compliance with these rules is verified by a uniform social audit. AUSTRIA JUICE primarily uses the Sedex SMETA audit, and the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) as the basis for assessing suppliers.

What do we understand by sustainable cultivation and harvest?

The central issue in cultivation and harvesting is to create transparency. The focus is primarily on irrigation systems, but also on selecting the right varieties for the respective soil conditions to have to use fewer pesticides. According to Jörg Schultz, sustainability expert at AUSTRIA JUICE, the organic nutrient supply is becoming increasingly important. "Humus build-up is a major issue that will continue to occupy us," says Jörg Schultz, "For this, comprehensive concepts are needed that go far beyond the addition of humus, such as the establishment of insects or the planting of hedges that protect against wind and weather."

With this so-called regenerative cultivation, the soil can store the nutrients and draw on them for a longer period of time, even if there is no rain for a long time. "Admittedly, the implementation of this is complex and associated with costs - there needs to be a broad-based rethink about the benefits," says Jörg Schultz.

Fair and trusting cooperation with producers, which creates win-win situations and enables farmers to live well in the long term, is also an essential pillar of a well thought-out sustainability strategy.

Sustainable agriculture is evident, among others, in the following areas:

• Operational farm management
• Working conditions
• Soil and nutrient management
• Crop protection

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In the case of irrigation, for example, measures that are relatively easy to implement, such as choosing the timing and the system of irrigation correctly, have a major impact. "In the morning it is the coolest, therefore the drops reach directly to the roots, where they are needed, instead of evaporating in the warm air," says Jörg Schultz.

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Contract cultivation: AUSTRIA JUICE supports farmers

With the current contract farming projects in Hungary and Poland, AUSTRIA JUICE has been able to help local farmers improving their economic situation and secure it in the long term. Schultz: "At that time, many farmers had given up their farms in Hungary because they had no customers and could not go ahead economically. In contrast, the conditions for growing apple trees are ideal in Hungary, as well as in Poland."

On the other hand, in Hungary and Poland, they succeeded together with experts, in obtaining the maximum from the fruit in an environmentally friendly way. Resistant apple varieties ensure that 60 to 80 percent fewer pesticides are used. "This saves farmers money on the one hand, and helps protect the environment, on the other," says Jörg Schultz. Together with experts and farmers, the best apple tree species were selected for the soil on the ground and farmers were asked if they were interested in working together. The trees come from regional nurseries and were pre-financed by AUSTRIA JUICE.

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Another project is being planned for the cultivation of cherries for 100% organic cultivation. "In the future, it will become increasingly important to adapt the choice of varieties to the development of the climate - and preferably from the very beginning," explains Jörg Schultz, "because changing over from existing varieties to new ones takes around ten years time."

What do harvesting machines do for sustainability?

At harvest, more or less machines will tend to be used alongside or rather than human labor. "The system seems to be changing," says Jörg Schultz, "The classic system of harvest workers will not be sustainable in the long term. Farming is no longer very attractive, so more and more people are moving to the cities, which means fewer workers."

Machine rings could be one solution, says Schultz: "If you can rent harvesters from a pool as needed, this saves you investment costs and several farmers can join together according to their interests."

Conlusion:

By the year 2030, AUSTRIA JUICE, as a member of the Sustainable Juice Covenant (IDH), intends to reach a common goal together with several large companies in the beverage industry: to produce 100 percent of the goods in a sustainable manner. Sustainable cultivation and harvesting begin with the selection of plants and trees according to the soil, and continue with appropriate and resource-friendly irrigation through to the organic supply of nutrients. Manpower is also an important resource: AUSTRIA JUICE is committed to value and strengthen it through, among other things, contract farming projects.

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Jörg SchultzAuthor

Project Manager - Technical R&D and Processes

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