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 helping supply a biogas plant, sited at Nestlé Waters’ Henniez mineral water bottling plant. Christian sends manure from his cows to the nearby plant which generates biogas. It was the eco-friendly solution to the excess manure problem.
The project begins and ends with the network of 27 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 businesses 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 renewable energy. We can use it to grow better crops.”
The premium organic fertiliser produced by the biogas plant is easily absorbed by plants, and produces fewer ammonia emissions for the environment. Because of the fertiliser’s quality, Mr. Boeuf no longer requires the use of fungicides on his crops, and can spread the fertiliser at the most suitable of the year.
Nestlé Waters financed feasibility studies and sought partners in 2009, examining ways to protect 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 nearby NESPRESSO and NESCAFÉ factories, is sold to the Swiss grid. The heat from the plant powers the Henniez facility, reducing its CO2 emissions by 30%.
Among the other farmers involved in the project, is Laurent Gentil who has worked on his family farm for 30 years. He’s 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 Nestlé Waters. Henniez’s Sustainability Manager 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.”
Water Challenge Blog by Peter Brabeck-Letmathe
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