We have aligned our business with those that share our commitment to quality, best farming practices, water-use efficiency, innovation, and sustainability. These commitments to environmental excellence extend throughout our supply chain and as a result, we deliver high-quality almonds in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive, socially responsible way.
A portion of our acreage and that of our growers is enrolled in the California Almond Stewardship Platform also known as CASP. Led by the Almond Board of California, this program uses data to innovate ways to improve efficiencies which includes adopting cost-effective, environmentally, and socially responsible practices.
As farmers, we know firsthand how important taking special care of our land, water, air-quality, energy management, and wildlife truly is. Investing in our environment and in innovative practices has enabled us to farm, process, and deliver a high-quality product for over five decades. Environmental stewardship is not new to us; it is part of our core operations and will continue to be.
Energy is a critical component of our operations. We focus on energy investments in both renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. These initiatives along with others, are part of our overall dedication to be carbon-neutral, improve our sustainability and resiliency.
Generating onsite renewable energy is an important part of our long-term sustainability and resiliency goals and that’s not new. In 2010, we invested in a one-megawatt solar array consisting of approximately 5,500 panels and spans six acres. In 2017, we expanded our solar installation and today, it produces enough electricity to offset 90% of our annual consumption.
With our expansion in 2020-2022, we invested in additional solar panels and infrastructure and now have over 6,400 panels producing approximately 2.5 megawatts of electricity.
This solar generated energy powers both the Hulling/Shelling and Processing Plants. By 2024, our goal is to achieve 95% self-generation.
To maximize water and energy efficiency, our growers have made investments in variable frequency drives to conserve energy and water usage on the farms. These pumps adjust energy and water flow matching the actual demand; conserving energy and water in the process and optimizing operational efficiency.
Motion sensors and LED lighting have been installed throughout our facilities. Using less energy and only activated when needed, this investment improves our energy and operational efficiencies.
Water Resource Management
Climate change, extended dry periods, and ever-changing regulations impact California water supply. We understand water resource management, its complexities and the importance of water-use efficiency, water quality, stormwater capture, salinity management, and supply reliability. By actively managing our water resources, we are better able to forecast our water demand, secure adequate water supply for today and the future, and plan our operations accordingly.
- Our processes, including hulling and shelling, are all waterless. By using state-of-the-art, patented mechanical processes, we hull, shell, clean, sort, and pack our almonds without using one single drop of water. These innovation investments enable us to meet or exceed all existing food safety, Kosher, and RPAC quality requirements.
- In the fields, our growers use drip or micro sprinkler irrigation, soil moisture sensing technology and weather-based irrigation controllers as part of their water management. These technologies when used together ensure each plant is getting just the right amount of water, at the right time, right where it needs it.
Storm Water Management
- Managing our groundwater basins, looking after our community, and working with our local groundwater agencies are top water resource priorities. During our 2020-2022 expansion, we invested significantly in a custom designed and engineered stormwater system. By enhancing our facilities’ natural topography, we capture storm water runoff, hold it for percolation and ultimately replenish our local groundwater aquifer, benefitting our local community and nearby farmers.
Air Quality / Pollution Control
- California has the most stringent air quality regulations in the world. To improve the air quality in our community, we mitigate for dust onsite including the recent installation of expansive dust control systems, use electric vehicles including forklifts and all-terrain vehicles, as well as eco-boost pick-ups.
Almond trees naturally sequester carbon dioxide (CO2), meaning the trees themselves remove the CO2 from the air and absorb it. On average, an acre of almond trees removes about one million metric tonnes (Also known as a metric ton) of CO2 annually. Our farming operations along with our growers remove approximately 5.96 BILLION metric tonnes of CO2 annually, which is equal to removing 1.29 BILLION combustion vehicles from the road each year. (For more information on this study, please visit Bountiful.)
At our processing facilities, we have upgraded our dust collection and bag house systems, improving air quality, lowering overall dust emissions, and improving onsite conditions.
Reducing waste is important and part of our commitment to land management and protection. We operate a robust recycling program that includes plastics, cardboard, and metal. We also recycle the dirt and dust we collect as part of our processing. This is used by local landfills as alternative daily cover and in reclamation projects where fill is needed, mitigating the need for grading and excavation.
These are part of our efforts to discover and explore new alternative uses for almond hulls and shells, also known as co-products. Currently, these are sold to local dairies as cattle feed and the shells are sold for use as bedding for cattle. This can impact nearly 25% of water reduction by using the almond co-products as a substitute for corn.
Looking toward the future, we are working with the United States Department of Agriculture and exploring new and promising innovative applications for our almond shells. One example is converting them into granulated activated carbon, or GAC, which is used in a variety of filtration and water treatment applications. Most GAC is currently produced from coconut shells that must be harvested in Africa and shipped great distances
In addition to our efforts, our Growers employ Whole Orchard Recycling, which provides a sustainable method of tree removal. This prescribed practice enhances both air and soil quality.
Near 100% of all our products and co-products are utilized.
Honeybees play a critical role in farm production. We have worked with the same beekeeper since the 1970’s and he has been recognized as an industry leader, bee expert, and honeybee advocate. By working with the same beekeepers year after year, we are able to maximize pollination, as well as help preserve and grow the honeybee population. For almonds, the "bloom" is where the growing season begins. Each bloom must be pollinated to produce an almond. Our beekeepers deliver active and healthy honeybees directly into our orchards. We coordinate our operations around protecting them, ensuring they are safe and well-cared-for. It takes approximately two hives, with 11,000 to 14,000 bees in each, to pollinate an acre of Almond trees. Bees arrive in early spring and are most productive on cool, non-windy days. When the petals on the almond blooms are mostly dropped, they move on to their next assignment.
- Since 2001, we have sponsored the Merced County Spring Fair’s Little Hands interactive exhibit. This hands-on experience provides opportunity for school-age children to learn about farming, economics, water-use efficiency, honeybee protection, and the agriculture industry. Students experience several interactive exhibits and then can harvest their efforts, converting their General Store.
- We recognize that education and technical training are critical to developing and maintaining a highly skilled workforce as well as improved socio-economic communities. Reserved for employees and their families, the scholarship program is open to graduating seniors and is renewable annually based on continued employment, enrollment, and grade point average. Seasonal, full-time, and part-time employees are eligible.
- For four generations we have called Los Banos, California home. We are a part of our community and proud to give our time, talent, and treasure to organizations such as the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce, the Merced County Spring Fair, the Spring Fair Heritage Foundation, the Henry Miller Museum, the Los Banos Arts Council, Habitat for Humanity, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), as well as economic development agencies, local and regional government, and industry organizations.
Safety is no accident. Utilizing best practices, technology and employ engagement, we have developed a safe work environment. Our policies, procedures, and education programs are review regularly and updated to ensure we provide a safe work environment. Our Worker Safety programs include:
- Safety Committee comprised of management and operational staff
- Full-Time Employee Health/Safety Management
- Ongoing, monthly safety trainings
- Lockout/Tag Out procedures
- Upgraded Personal Protection Equipment
- CPR certified employees on every shift, in every department
- Daily facility evaluation and assessment
- Employee reporting program and documentation
- Company-wide safety training program for evacuations, fire, earthquake, and active shooter
- Secured Facility, including cameras, keycard access and visitor/guest procedures