As you might expect, agriculture and agri-food accounts for a significant percentage of freshwater use and water usage globally.
That said, the percentage is eye-opening, with studies showing that agriculture and agri-food accounts for over 70 per cent of all freshwater use on a global scale.
“The only way to put it is that agriculture and agri-food businesses are big users of freshwater,” says Mike Mikulak, executive director of Food & Beverage Manitoba. “It’s imperative that our industry reduce its water footprint.”
Why is that so important?
“As climate-change-driven droughts and storms impact communities not only in Canada but around the world, it’s critically important that companies find ways to attain operational efficiencies,” he says. “Companies are going to have to find ways to reduce usage and outflow and find use for food by-products found in the wastewater.”
Mikulak points to Manitoba-based Old Dutch Potato Chips as a leader in finding a way to pull a usable product out of wastewater.
“It often contains valuable nutrients and inputs for the circular economy,” he notes. “In this instance, a lot of potato starch goes out in the water. Old Dutch has a process that gets it down to a powder form. They then sell it to be used as potato starch.”
At the same time, it’s also important to conserve – and re-use – as much water as possible.
“For example, the City of Winnipeg is talking about increasing wastewater capacity, and Assiniboine Community College is conducting research on outdoor and indoor water conservation,” Mikulak says.
He adds there are other examples of companies or groups working on ways to preserve precious water.
“Harvest Today in Colorado is working on grow walls to grow produce like lettuce and herbs indoors with soil materials that require minimal water usage, and here in Manitoba, the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Water Collective is protecting water resources.”
There’s a benefit to all this hard work, he adds. “Companies that save water and find a productive way to use wastewater will not only create valuable output that contributes to the circular economy but will save money. Those two things serve as a big incentive to find ways to be better to the environment and be more efficient as a business.”
Water Usage and Wastewater will be the topic of discussion for the third workshop at the CULTIVATE Sustainability Workshop and Trade Show.
Bringing together stakeholders in the food and beverage industry with innovators in sustainability and the reduction of environmental impact, CULTIVATE is a perfect opportunity to prepare your company for upcoming sustainability challenges such as packaging requirements, supply chain challenges, and ESG reporting.