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Re-imagining Global Agriculture: Re-generation of the living world

Creating hedgegrows for bees in California

Olam is the second largest grower of almonds globally and the only supplier with orchards in both hemispheres (Australia and California), meaning we can provide a year-round fresh supply to customers.

In California, the team works with various experts, in areas spanning water management, soil health and biodiversity. Bees are critical, and in January they are transported to California to pollinate the almond orchards of more than 6,800 farmers.

In 2017, we required around 680 million bees for our extensive orchards, costing US$3 million, so it’s important that we provide the best incentive for the bees to stay, rather than fly elsewhere! It’s also important that they are productive, which means they need to be healthy.

In 2014, with General Mills and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the almonds team created almost 10 kilometres of flowering hedgerows so that bees and other pollinators can get the varied diet they need, as well as attracting bees naturally.

In an interview in 2017, Jessa Kay Cruz, senior pollinator conservation specialist for the Xerces Society said of the Olam orchard: “This farm really serves as a great model for what can be done. Olam has been able to adopt all of these great practices that really improve the biodiversity of the farm and make it better for pollinators.”

Larry Hanson, Olam Director of Agricultural Research & Development, has also been working with Project Apis m which provides mustard seed mixes for floral diversity. These are sown on Olam’s land on the research farm outside Hanford to promote healthy bee colonies. Just like humans, bees are better able to deal with stressors if properly nourished, better able to fend off pests and parasites and cope with pesticides and transportation stress. Healthier bees mean stronger hives and better pollination.

Other measures to protect bees and other pollinators include avoiding the use of any insecticides during the pollination period and applying tree fungicide only at night when bees are not active1. More widely, Olam promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques – these include ‘threshold’ spraying, which adapts pesticide use according to bug levels in individual fields, and using natural methods to deter pests, such as planting maize as a border crop.

Better management practices, smarter use of technology, and restoring natural capital in and around our orchards, plantations and farms, can help protect biodiversity and enable the natural process to supply ecosystem services. This is at the heart of our vision to re imagine global agriculture.

1.We have made a commitment to limit our use of WHO Class IA and IB chemicals to exceptional circumstances where no alternatives are available, and have implemented a control plan for rarely used Class II chemicals including neonicotinoids

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