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Closing the loop on tomato farming with General Mills

Best Practice in Innovation: General Mills and Olam’s award-winning GO Compost project is keeping more waste out of landfill; benefitting profitability, the environment and increasing the sustainable production of tasty tomatoes.

Objective

As an industry leader and the largest organic tomato processor, Olam SVI partnered with General Mills’ organic business Muir Glen, to take a progressive approach to waste management throughout the supply chain. This included a ‘zero waste’ policy at the Williams California processing plant. For 10 years Olam’s Spices and Vegetable Ingredients has worked with Muir Glen and the farmers that supply its organic tomatoes, to ensure the crop is grown, harvested and processed to the highest standards,as efficiently as possible. Together both companies set out to find a way to keep more of each tomato in the food chain, and out of landfills.

Approach

With a shared passion for innovation, the ‘GO’ (General Mills & Olam) Compost programme provides organic growers with high quality compost and technical support whilst creating a cyclical system for tomato growing and processing.

Within the programme, 97% of the tomatoes purchased are processed, with 0.3% being dirt and foreign material. The remaining 2.7% is the tomato ‘waste’ – seeds and skins that are extracted during processing and used as the nitrogen source in the organic compost. This is combined with locally produced by-products such as almond shells and rice straw and hulls. Over US$700,000 was invested in equipment including a compost windrow turner, a large machine used to assist large-scale composting efforts. The machine spans the windrow – a large row of organic material – and churns it to quicken the composting process.

After 90 days, the compost is transported and applied to the 3,500 acres of the nearby organic tomato fields of growers. The compost provides nutrients and organic matter to the soil to improve its health with the effect of increased yields and reduced input costs.

Results

The GO Compost project annually produces 10,000 tonnes of compost and is a full-scale, commercial sized operation. In addition to helping to grow high quality produce, Muir Glen estimates that it will reduce landfill costs and generating revenue from the sale of the compost to farmers who use it on their tomato fields – a truly virtuous cycle. GO Compost was one of Muir Glen’s sustainability initiatives that received the prestigious 2013 John Muir Conservation Award.

Please click here to view our Tomatoes Sustainability page.