Final Project Report, April 15, 2011
As environmental issues gain more attention across the world, the agricultural industry is experiencing increasing demands from consumers and government agencies to implement environmentally responsible practices and demonstrate the sustainability of their operations. Gills Onions is the nation's largest producer of onions and has enlisted a team of six students from the Bren School for Environmental Science & Management to gather baseline data on the resource inputs used for their farms in California. This group thesis project will collect and organize data from the four growing regions that supply Gills Onions in Monterey, Fresno and Imperial Counties, and a bulb propagation facility in the state of Indiana. The ultimate goal is to provide a framework that the company can use to track resource use in the future. This study will also serve as a pilot project for the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, providing critical feedback on the metrics that are currently being created to measure sustainable farming. We will assess Gills Onions’ current farming practices in terms of the following:
Assess the value of sustainability tracking
- Industry drivers: Many in the business community have already taken first steps to evaluate sustainability in their agricultural supply chain. We summarized recent developments and provided a context for resource reporting.
- Ecconomic drivers: We researched past and projected trends in the price of common farming inputs such as diesel, electricity and water. By tracking resource use year to year, growers may identify areas of improvement and save money.
- Policy Drivers: New policies are in development that may require growers to report their resource use. We summarized upcoming regulations pertinent to Gills growers, such as the Agricultural Waivers under Regional Water Quality Control Boards and the potential for air quality mandates from the California Air Resources Board.
Establish a baseline of the current inputs and waste generated for the 2008-09 crop, including:
- Water use: quantify amount used and source of water, irrigation practices
- Soil enhancements and management practices: fertilizer, tillage practices, crop rotation etc.
- Pest management: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
- Energy use and efficiency: farm machinery, transportation, cooling and storage
Establish a data tracking framework
- Customized database for data consolidation and analysis
- Suggested improvements on data collection
- Prioritization of future studies
Please explore our website to learn more about our project and onions.