Duda installs solar at celery facility

In May 2011, Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., Wellington, Fla., installed 2,100 square feet of solar panels at its fresh-cut celery facility in Oxnard, Calif., said Nichole Towell, marketing development manager.

The panels produce 24,000 kilowatt-hours monthly. Towell said the energy is used to run the plant and Dandy Cooling Co. LLC’s coolers.

Duda recycles water used to clean produce in its Oxnard facility by using it for landscape irrigation and refrigeration at Dandy Cooling, Towell said.

Duda’s goal in 2011 was to reduce water usage by 66%, or 40,000 gallons per day. Because the plant operates an average of 281 days a year, Duda expects to save more than 11 million gallons annually, she said.

Gills Onions farm hires sustainability manager

In August, Oxnard, Calif.-based Gills Onions LLC’s growing entity, Rio Farms, Oxnard, hired Jocelyn Gretz as a sustainable agriculture program manager, said Nikki Rodoni, Gills director of sustainability.

Gretz is responsible for analyzing and collecting sustainability data.

Before joining Rio Farms, Gretz earned a master’s degree in environmental sciences and management from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Rodoni said.

Oppenheimer markets Fair Trade bell peppers

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group is marketing larger volumes of grapes from Rainforest Alliance-certified growers in Chile and of Fair Trade certified sweet bell peppers from grower Divemex, Culiacan, Mexico, said Karin Gardner, marketing communications manager.

This is Oppenheimer’s second season to market Divemex’s Fair Trade peppers. Conventional and organic red, yellow and orange peppers are available through May, Gardner said.

Due to strong demand for Fair Trade peppers, Divemex plans to seek certification for an additional portion of its greenhouse operations, Gardner said.

Testa Produce ponders alternative vehicles

The next project for Chicago-based Testa Produce, after the opening of its LEED-certified distribution facility in 2011, could be switching to electric or compressed-natural-gas vehicles.

Peter Testa, president, said the company is researching alternatives to biodiesel trucks.

The company is recycling more materials now than it has in the past, Testa said.

For several years, Testa Produce has used Pallet Wrapz reusable heavy-duty vinyl wraps with Velcro as a replacement for plastic wrapping on pallets. Every pallet is unwrapped upon delivery and the wraps are returned to Testa Produce for reuse.

“It’s cut down on my use of plastic by at least 70%, which translates into $40,000 to $50,000 a year,” Testa said.

Village Farms joins clean tech stock index

Village Farms International, Delta, British Columbia, was named by Standard & Poor’s and TMX Group Inc. to the S&P/TSX Clean Technology Index. TMX Group operates the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

Companies on the index have been evaluated for commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction and management, and low impact materials and products, said Helen Aquino, marketing manager.

Wada collaborates on information exchange

Bob Meek, chief executive officer, Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, said the company is working with Bayer CropScience to share information and resources on sustainability and achieving Produce Traceability Initiative objectives.

Bayer CropScience helped Wada pilot a PTI program. Using Wada’s sustainability program and data as a model, Bayer CropScience created software that could be used by other growers, Meek said.

Zespri monitors its water footprint

New Zealand-based grower cooperative Zespri International Ltd. is assessing data from its 2011 water footprint research as part of developing its best practices, said Carol Ward, general marketing manager.

Among the findings: 85% of the water used is green water, which is from rainfall or natural moisture, Ward said.

Zespri released a carbon footprint report in 2011.