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Village Farms salutes World Water Day with sustainable hydroponic growing

The United Nations General Assembly stated the year 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.  March 22, 2013 has been declared ‘World Water Day’ to focus on the importance of freshwater while advocating for the management of freshwater resources. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, agriculture, and especially irrigated agriculture, is the largest consumer of water the world over, accounting for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals and more than 90% of overall consumption.  Village Farms as one of the largest Controlled Environment Agriculture food producers in North America salutes the efforts put forth by the United Nations on World Water Day and seeks to convey the sustainable aspects of growing food hydroponically and the companies integrated water management programs.

According to Doug Kling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Village Farms, ‘Our greenhouse hydroponic growing methods are able to grow more food with less water on less land. Meaning, our yields are higher compared to field grown and we use considerable less water to achieve these yields.’   Village Farms, ‘Barefoot Plan’ outlines on the company’s website efficiencies in water use such as, 86% less water on a per pound basis than field grown varieties, and recycling water up to 5 times in the greenhouse.  Helen L. Aquino, Marketing Manager for Village Farms states, ‘In our Texas facility the water that is discharged from the greenhouse is used to irrigate the adjacent farmland where a local farmer can graze his cattle.’   And, she continues, ‘In another of our Texas greenhouses the discharged water is used to irrigate local park land.’

“Our Barefoot Plan outlines our resource usage and particularly our water efficiencies, and we are also members  of a third-party certification group, Certified Greenhouse Farmers, that seeks to educate stakeholders throughout the chain from consumers to policy makers  as to the sustainable resource usage with controlled environment agriculture,” said Aquino. Those efforts, along with social media outreach, are a step in the right direction, she added, because water management is important to consumers, even if they don't know it yet.

Because Village Farms grows in a soilless medium of recycled coconut fiber there is no soil erosion or threat to surface water from runoff.  ‘As the world population increases and resources such as viable land and water become more taxed finding solutions for sustainable food production becomes increasingly paramount’, according to Kling.  And he continues, ‘Village Farms is well positioned to meet this need with our sustainable growing practices and our water management programs.  But of course, Kling adds, ‘As a company we are always striving to do better in this regard by being ahead of  the  curve with our cutting edge technology.’

Most consumers, noted Kling, make their purchasing decisions based on taste and price, and he adds,  ultimately these will always be most important. The product has to taste good and it has to have a good price, he noted, but as resources become increasingly scarce, the kinds of conservation issues that consumers aren't aware of will have a bigger effect on bottom-line issues like price – because when water becomes more scarce, it costs more money to grow and those costs gets passed on to consumers. So educating consumers about water-conservation will become increasingly important going forward.

“At the end of the day, consumers want something that tastes good and is affordable,” said Kling. “The technology we employ allows us to grow more efficiently, so consumers can get the food they need and not have to worry about how they're going to pay for it.”

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Publication date: 3/22/2013


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