domenica 25 gennaio 2015

Clean and sustainable olive oil production in Chile

It's a while we started following a Olio del Sur an interesting window on the olive oil world from the Americas, or Latin America by Gabriele Giusti.
This week we found an interesting post about the Acuerdo de Produccion Limpia de la Industria del Aceite de Oliva (Agreement for the Clean Production in the Olive Oil Industry).

The Agreement started in 2013 to promote the use of practices and technologies for a sustainable production maintaining production efficiency and competitiveness.

Output of the project include sustainability indexes, efficiency in water consumption (mainly for irrigation and milling), better energy use and management, improved organic waste management from the oil industry, improved safety and hygiene of the work conditions, hygiene, training of the workforce as well.

The project advantages from the collaboration and the economic support of the Chilean Agency for the Energy Efficiency (Agência de Eficiência Energética do Chile).

The Agreement
The Agreement, that will keep working in 2015 and gathers farms and representatives of the olive oil industry, was signed in 2013 June 26th between the Asociación Chilena de Productores de Aceite de Oliva (ChileOliva), and the Consejo Nacional de Producción Limpia (Chile’s National Clean Production Council - CPL) from the Ministry of Economics, Development and Tourism, involving the ChileOliva and the Chilean Agency for Energy Efficiency (AChEE). This public-private partnership integrated governmental resources through the CPL providing environmental and economic benefits to the industry beyond the term of the project itself. The local partners, such as AChEE, the Center for Renewable Energies (CER), the Ministry of Environment, the Service for Technical Cooperation (SERCOTEC), have established the infrastructure to continue these activities and, in addition, WEC included participation from the American Chamber of Commerce of Chile (AMCHAM).

The Embassy of the United States in Chile, in fact reported that Agreement (which is signed on a voluntary basis) stems from a project of the US State Department through the World Environment Center (WEC), an Non-Profit Organization that promotes sustainable development and energy efficiency in the private sector. In 2010 the U.S. Department of State established a cooperation agreement with the World Environment Center (WEC) to support the Chilean private sector to advance sustainable enterprise development. This led to start a pilot project in 2012 among ChileOliva and the WEC whose first positive results boosted the further activities.

The Project
The project focused on providing direct technical assistance to local small and mid-sized companies to improve their performance and strengthening their competitiveness in the international market an to implement and achieve the goals specifically in:
  • Conservation of water and energy; 
  • Reducing waste, raw material use and emissions; 
  • Establishing environmental management systems; and 
  • Accessing funding and loans to finance the adoption of advanced technologies 

Once expanded the original project the activities, now involves up to 50 olive companies, representing 80% of national production capacity.

WEC provided its ability to achieve each project’s goals through a customized approach that leverages the team’s international expertise with local networks and technical knowledge to propagate sustainable business practices. As already stated, the search of new trade opportunities for the private sector is not secondary to the other objectives.

During the first stage of the project, 95 recommendations and action plans were made, 53 of which had been implemented by September 2013.

After having supported the participating companies in their olive plantations to reduce energy consumption in their irrigation systems of lands, the project team shifted its efforts to the milling process. Technical assistance then focused on the follow up and monitoring of recommendations provided during the former harvest season. As result, the participating companies continued to implement energy savings, reduction and control of water consumption and wastewater, as well as employee behavior change to improve their daily operations through best practices.

Examples of opportunities that were identified, mainly in energy and water management, include minimizing water consumption for crop irrigation- which also reduced the correlated energy necessary to pump the water into the fields; and replacing fuel boilers with biomass boilers used to incinerate the olive pits. The activities that produced the most significant results were in product recovery and wastewater pollution reduction. In fact, these indicators are interrelated because almost the entire product that was recovered (olive oil or olive paste) was extracted from the discarded water.
Energy, however, is the environmental aspect with the highest savings potential as well as the most sustained return of investment (measurements indicated that 99.9% of all investments are returned within a payback period of at least 2.5 years).

The Project's Results
So far, the most noteworthy result of the this public-private partnership (as of September 2013 - when WEC finalized its assistance to the sector) environmental and energy savings reported by the participating companies include:
  • Reduction of 238 tons per year of materials used in production; 
  • Over 1.2 million gallons of water saved; 
  • Over 487,000 kw, 2,314 gallons of fuel, and 34 tons of biomass saved; and 
  • Reduction of 263 tons of CO2 emissions. 
The team measured the economic impact among the companies and found that a total of $114,800 had been invested by the companies in equipment and process upgrades through the project term, and $157,000 had been garnered in savings from these improvements.

The overall results for the industry, aside from process and efficiency improvements, environmental advances, and savings, include strengthening their market position internationally as ChileOliva looks to continue its export expansion. In fact, because Chilean olive production is increasing every year, many of these companies were planning on installing new production lines: 6 of 9 companies confirmed that they would install new lines in the following 2 years [hence, by 2015].

More information can be found on an official WEC report following this link.

The WEC also reported that the Chilean olive oil industry stands to save approximately 4 million liters of water and 2 million KWH per year, which translates to annual savings of almost 1 billion pesos, or USD $2 million.

We do not know where the Chilean olive oil industry started when this project was implemented, neither we know whether the projects involved innovative technologies for sustainability or rather a simple transfer of mature knowledge and technologies from abroad. What matters, is that a share of the olive oil production in now greener than before, without loosing in economic sustainability but rather saving money and empowering new market relationship.
It has been a while since the US started moving in the olive oil industry by leveraging its brokerage attitude firstly in Central and Southern America and then in Asia (mainly China - read our blog for more examples). The WEC has several lines of investments eg. in Mexico, Perù, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, China.
Meanwhile, Chile looks like working to affirm itself as the "lighthouse" of the high quality EVOO from Latin America: OroChile 2014, Concurso Latinoamericano de Aceite de Oliva organized by ChileOliva and the University of Chile in 2014 involved experts from  Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Perú y Uruguay [here the list of winners 2014].


Greening production is certainly the best way to attain this goal and it witnesses that the consumer preferences toward sustainability attributes and intangible assets deserve consistent investment to exploit money.

Don't you agree?


Further readings:
To better grasp an idea of the context where the project was shaped, interesting details about the project and the history of olive growing in Chile can be found in this article "Green olives" by Kalynne Dakin from February 2014, while a sight on what were Chile's goals for the world olive oil market in year 2013 can be read on

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