Recycling of general waste is done on most of the farms. The purpose of the project was to reduce the general waste derived from farm houses and pack houses to landfill, to reduce the harmful effect on the environment. The aim was to educate all individuals living on the farm on the principles of recycling and living more sustainably. They saw it as a platform to encourage leadership as well as adopt more positive attitudes towards the environment. Each farm now takes responsibility for their own house-hold waste and farm workers are committed to the initiative.
In 2014 the farms started measuring their carbon footprint through the Confronting Climate Change Initiative. Participants willingly submit their electricity, diesel, chemical and packaging use for a 12 month period to a company called Blue North, who analyse the data and then calculates the farm’s carbon footprint accordingly. It’s interesting to note that the farm’s carbon footprint is currently much lower than that of other table grape farms in the Hex- and Breede River valleys. They believe this is due to their commitment to using less chemicals and fertilisers that have a much softer impact on the environment as well as alternative methods such as biological pest control (natural predators that target harmful pests) and by producing and using more organic compost.
An organic approach was taken a few years ago to improve soil quality through the production of compost. The farms use the compost together with the Red Wriggler worm from Australia to help produce a soil that is rich in nutrients and minerals. Nothing goes to waste on the farms. If natural vegetation is cleared it is used in the compost production. Contributions from neighbouring farms and gardening services are also accepted in the form of plant material and organic waste which they add to the compost process. The benefit is that the farms are less dependent on fertilisers and chemical inputs to improve the soil quality and it is a more natural and healthy way of soil preparation.
The farms are in partnership with the Paardeberg Sustainability Initiative and Klein Vondeling Farm to take part in the clearing of alien vegetation on Paarl mountain (about 150 ha which forms part of their land). This entails the clearing of Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Pine, Hakea and other alien trees that put a strain on natural water sources and the natural fynbos vegetation. This must be maintained annually and additional employment is created as a result.
Owl boxes were installed close to all the pack houses to introduce a more natural pest control method by controlling vermin populations around pack houses. The boxes were manufactured and installed by the Eagle Encounters and are monitored regularly. There are regular sightings of the African Spotted Eagle Owl who seems to fit naturally into this habitat. The result is vermin populations that are kept under control and thus less chemical interventions are necessary. The producers currently use an external pest control company, ECO FIRST, to monitor vermin traps.
A water footprint study was conducted in 2016. The results will be benchmarked against global norms to determine the efficiency of our water usage. With the aim to reduce the water footprint on the farms, DFM probes were installed in the soil that measures the water moisture and determines the optimum level of irrigation. The water quality from the Berg River is also tested regularly to determine if any intervention is needed.
An energy efficiency audit was conducted via the National Business Initiative (NBI) and Private Sector Energy Efficiency (PSEE). This audit provided some guidelines on where the farms can further improve its energy use. Our farms are committed to finding innovative ways in which they can use less electricity and utilise more environmentally friendly sources of energy. Here are a few ways how our producers have reduced their energy usage:
• Converted all the light bulbs in all the pack houses to energy efficient light bulbs.
• Ensure all pack houses have sufficient natural light.
• Implemented Variable Speed Drives (VSD) in all the irrigation systems, to reduce the amount
of electricity that is used to pump the water.
• Hot water solar geysers are installed at their worker houses.
• Wind powered ventilators are installed at pack houses.
• Installation of Solar PV panels on the roofs of pack houses to reduce the dependency on coal
• Replace old tractors and trucks, with more fuel efficient models.