Nottinghamshire grower hopes to achieve carbon-neutral Chantenay crop by summer 2022

A Nottinghamshire vegetable co-operative is aiming to produce the world’s first carbon-neutral carrots this year.

Fresh Growers (Freshgro) is a cooperative of 10 farmers based in the Nottingham area, supplying premium Chantenay carrots grown within 15 miles of the packhouse to supermarkets and catering customers across the UK.

Working together with Campbell-Gibbons Consulting and Intellync-Sustain, the group will be using life-cycle analysis to calculate the carbon footprint of its Chantenay carrot production from field to packhouse. A robust carbon-reduction plan will then be developed alongside purchasing a small number of high-quality carbon offsets to achieve carbon-neutral status for its Chantenay crop.

The group hopes to achieve carbon-neutral status by summer 2022.

The move is part of ongoing sustainability commitments that have been ingrained in the Freshgro ethos for the past decade. The cooperative has control of the whole process from seed production through to irrigation, storage and packing, and operates a packhouse powered by a 500kW wind turbine and 200kW solar panels, generating four times more energy than the business uses and selling back to the National Grid.

Working with retailers, the group has reduced the amount of packaging on its products and is working on an innovative new format for a carrot fibre-based punnet. It also recycles water on site, operates a no-crop waste policy and has a range of environmental and ethical accreditations from LEAF to Field to Fork, Sedex and BRC Grade A.

“As a business we have always been focused on things that have been both cost-efficient and good for the environment,” said Martin Evans, chief executive of Freshgro. “It’s a part of the culture of the business and we knew we were managing our carbon impact efficiently, but none of the existing tools we looked at were sophisticated enough to accurately measure where we were. Now we are working with experts who understand our sector so that we can transparently say to customers and consumers that our carrots are truly produced in harmony with nature, with no net climate impact.”

Freshgro’s sustainability package is being developed and managed by former NFU chief horticultural adviser and AHDB board member Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, who now runs her own specialist consultancy. “Capturing growers’ environmental performance on issues such as biodiversity, waste, plastics and water use and setting clear targets for improvement provides a focus for the business, meets government policy priorities and, crucially, satisfies the demands of retail customers who are asking, and obliging, suppliers to step up on sustainability,” Campbell-Gibbons said.

“Achieving carbon-neutral status for a premium fresh produce crop like Chantenay carrots will resonate with retailers and consumers, and promotes the huge potential growers have to supply products with minimal climate impacts.”