Up to 37 farms in Catalonia, the Valencian Community, Murcia, and Andalusia have joined Coca-Cola's Sustainable Citrus project, which aims at helping Spanish citrus producers to implement sustainable irrigation and fertilization practices.
The initiative, which receives support from the Jaume I University of Castellon, the strategic eco-innovation study Inèdit, and the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA) of the Generalitat of Catalonia, has already produced results that speak for themselves. The measures implemented in 750 hectares involved in the project, helped the sector save 676 million liters of water in 2018 and 2019 (170 million liters in 2018 and 506 million liters in 2019). To achieve this, the main efforts focused on installing humidity sensors and irrigation systems with anti-drain and self-compensating drippers, more than 1,300 kilometers of which have already been installed.
The program also seeks to reduce the use of fertilizers, as on many occasions some farmers apply too many fertilizers and at the wrong time, stated Carles M. Gasol, Inedit's Project Director. "We analyze the soil to recalculate the doses of fertilizers needed, then we instruct the producer when to apply them depending on the crop's stage development," he said.
Ana Gascon, the director of Corporate Responsibility of Coca-Cola Iberia, said the initiative allowed reducing CO₂ emissions by using fewer fertilizers and increased the value of citrus fruits, as they could be classified as sustainable, which opens up new markets to the farmers. "It contributes to improving the competitiveness of the final product and we help preserve rural jobs," she said. So far, the producers have received more than 4,100 hours of guidance.
A debt to nature
In addition to putting its focus on citrus groves, Coca-Cola is also working to protect the country's water resources to fulfill its purpose of returning to nature the equivalent of 100% of the water contained in its beverages. The balance is more than positive: in 2019, it managed to return 3,782 million liters thanks to all the measures it has taken, restoring 129% of the water resource contained in the beverages that it sold throughout Spain.