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Millions to be invested to usher in next-generation almond farming

Posted: 12 December 2017 | | No comments yet

California produces 82 per cent of the world’s almonds. New investment has been announced to bring the USD$2.5 billion industry into the 21st century.

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Almond Board of California (ABC) last week announced an investment of USD$4.8 million (£3.6 million) in 64 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming practices.

The announcement was made at the 45th annual Almond Conference, an event that convenes almond farmers and processors to dialogue with researchers about the latest science.

At the same event,  ABC released the first annual Almond Sustainability Publication, entitled Growing Good, which highlights the California Almond community’s commitment to sustainability.

The California Almond community, through ABC, has invested nearly $70 million over 40 plus years to build a foundation of research on improving how almonds are grown, processed, and consumed. 

Growing Good highlights the industry’s continually evolving farming and processing best practices based on that research investment, which has built a foundation of continuous improvement that is helping almonds to be an economically, environmentally and socially responsible crop for California. 

“Almond farmers’ growing practices and processors’ handling practices are rooted in science, and the industry has been investing in research that pushes the envelope and partnerships that break boundaries. This new sustainability publication highlights some of those efforts as well as programs that support responsible, efficient almond production,” said Almond Board Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Gabriele Ludwig.

“One of those programmes is The Almond Conference. Over the next few days, thousands of attendees will attend fifty plus sessions, a bustling trade show and other events, all while networking with their peers and researchers. It’s key to continuous improvement.”

Launched in 1973, ABC’s research programs provide a scientific basis for best practices across several priority areas. Three of those key areas include water sustainability, protection of honey bees that pollinate the almond crop, and new uses of hulls, shells, and woody materials in an effort to use everything produced in the orchard; a zero waste approach. Each of these focus areas are highlighted in Growing Good.

Water sustainability

Since 1982, California almond farmers have committed $6.7 million to 201 different water research projects spanning irrigation efficiency, groundwater recharge, and water quality. Through production improvements and adoption of water efficient technologies, this investment has helped farmers reduce the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33 per cent over the past 20 years. Of this year’s projects, 14 focus on water with an investment of $1.2 million.

The honey bee

Since honey bee health was made a strategic research priority of the Almond Board in 1995, the community has committed $2.6 million dollars in support of 113 projects that address the five major factors impacting honey bee health. Research has also supported the development of orchard practices designed to keep bees safe during almond pollination. Farmers added to that investment this year with six research projects totalling nearly $300,000, funding more honey bee health research than any other crop group.

Coproduct Innovation

The nuts grow in a shell, protected by a hull, on a tree, and the California Almond community has ensured that each of these coproducts is put to beneficial use through investment in 58 research projects since 1977, totalling $1.6 million. Nine studies have been funded this year with a commitment of $540,000 to determine how almond coproducts may address needs across food, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, automotive, and more.

“ABC, in collaboration with our industry partners, is working every day to bring profitable, innovative solutions for coproducts back to farmers and processors. Having a robust economic outlook while remaining committed to environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive, which is why I’m excited to be a part of this effort,” said Chico almond farmer and research collaborator, Rory Crowley.

Almond Sustainability for the Future

Continued commitment to scientific research is helping the community grow the farm of the future, as reflected in Growing Good. The publication, the first of its kind for the Almond Board, highlights almond farmers’ and processors’ heritage of sustainability and commitment to continuous improvement, while shining a spotlight on key Almond Board programming supporting those goals.

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