Nestle: Helping Swiss farmers to fuel their crops and our factory
OREANDA-NEWS. August 29, 2016. Farming is a family tradition for Christian Boeuf, whose father managed the land before he took over at the age of 16. To keep the farm ecological, Mr. Boeuf looks for innovative ways to care for his land and crops.One way was participating in the creation of a biogas plant, sited at Nestle Waters’ Swiss mineral water brand Henniez. It was the eco-friendly solution to the excess manure yields from cows. The contribution of raw manure is transported to the nearby plant which generates biogas.
The project begins and ends with the network of local farmers. In return for their cows’ manure, they receive a highly sought after fertiliser which is organic and nutrient dense - the final product of the fermentation process in the biogas plant. The farmers then reuse it on their crops, saving money as they need to purchase less fertiliser. This exchange is cost neutral and helps create sustainable farming business as they recover valuable nutrients that would be otherwise lost.Mr. Boeuf said “It’s rewarding to know that our manure is used to make green energy. We can use it to grow better crops. It means we can save electricity and gas - that’s fantastic.”
The premium fertiliser produced by the biogas plant is easily absorbed by plants, and produces fewer ammonia emissions for the environment. Due to the fertiliser’s organic quality, Mr. Boeuf no longer needs to use fungicides on his crops.
Nestle Waters financed feasibility studies and sought partners in 2009, examining possible causes of damage to the Henniez water source. With the collaboration of Groupe E Greenwatt, a facility to produce renewable energy was built next to the bottling plant. The electricity generated from burning the manure, along with coffee waste from local Nespresso and Nescafe factories is sold to the Swiss grid. The heat from the plant powers the Henniez facility, reducing CO2 emissions by 50%.Among the 27 local farmers involved in the project, is Laurent Gentil who has worked on his family farm for 30 years. In a world where Swiss farmers face an uncertain future, he is proud to be part of a collaborative project that he says should help his farming yields and the agro-biodiversity of his land. “We no longer have the problem of needing to empty the manure pits quickly because it is taken to the biogas plant for us,” said Laurent.
Supporting sustainable agriculture in this eco project is good for the farmers, the environment, and Nestle Waters. Henniez's Sustainability Manger Michel Marcuard said, “It wasn’t easy in the beginning. We had to win the farmers’ trust and convince them that we weren’t going to harm their livelihoods. But now it’s a great partnership – a win-win.”