NewStar Fresh Foods: Mexicali Water Management
Meet Greener Fields Together National Farms Partner:
Founded in 1996, NewStar Fresh Foods is built on a legacy that spans centuries as the result of merging leading Salinas and Pajaro Valley family farmers. NewStar’s roots are steeped in innovation, having built a reputation as the innovators of packaged spinach, and pioneered the development of iceless green onions. Today, NewStar stands out as the world’s largest shipper of iceless green onions, and continues to focus on industry leadership in value-added spinach, asparagus, and tender leaf products.
5P's Verified Case Study: Water Management
NewStar is committed to the spirit and practice of doing the right thing. A key component of this commitment is conserving water. In the fall of 2012, NewStar made significant progress in water conservation at its Mexicali, Mexico operations by converting nearly one third of its acreage to drip irrigation and implement other water savings techniques. SureHarvest documented and verified the Mexicali operation’s water saving program.
NewStar Fresh Foods is bringing innovative water saving practices to the Mexicali growing region. NewStar is making significant progress in formally establishing and maintaining its process of continual improvement in water management at its Mexicali farming operations and has benefited from culturally and geographically adapting water conservation techniques used in its other farming regions. In the 2012-2013 growing season, NewStar expects to see significant water savings through better irrigation efficiency. The Company projects their investment in the drip system to result in reduced water costs, increased yields, and higher product quality.
I. Sustainability Principles
NewStar sustainability embodies the spirit and practice of doing the right thing, in balance with the business, the employees, and Mother Nature herself.
NewStar’s principles for “Doing the right thing” include:
- Providing a quality work environment
- Investing in our communities
- Reducing our environmental footprint
- Engaging in responsible practices
2. Sustainability Processes
The company’s staff and management identified multiple sustainability benefits that would be achieved by implementing water conservation processes including reducing long-term irrigation costs, improving food safety, and optimizing water use. NewStar took the initiative to convert 600 of its more than 2000 acres farmed in Mexicali, Mexico to drip irrigation. NewStar is one of the first operations in the Mexicali basin to convert to drip irrigation.
3. Sustainability Practices
NewStar implemented a suite of water use efficiency practices including the installation of drip irrigation, monitoring the irrigation system at all times to insure it is operating properly, irrigation at night during nights of extreme heat, eliminating tailwater runoff through optimizing water use, and returning unused water back to the irrigation canal for the other users.
The Mexicali growing region relies entirely on irrigation water provided from the Colorado River. From a food safety and resource conservation perspective converting nearly one third of the Mexicali acreage to drip irrigation was important and timely. The transition away from the long-standing tradition of furrow or sprinkle irrigation required retraining of local field personnel who make up a set of highly experienced on-site irrigators.
4. Sustainability Performance
NewStar has recently incorporated flow meter readings to track water use as part of its standard operation and is committed to “measuring and managing” water use efficiency by adopting improved data collection and management techniques throughout its Mexicali operations. Very few ranches in the Mexicali growing region utilize flow meters and instead rely on the local irrigation district records to track daily and seasonal water use.
5. Sustainability Progress
A key component of NewStar’s continuous improvement approach is the annual review and selection of capital improvement projects. Each year department or regional operations develop a list of their high-priority projects that meet multiple company objectives including food safety, cost reduction, resource conservation and social responsibility. Management reviews and selects the final projects. Once implemented, projects are evaluated to insure they meet the anticipated benefits and cost savings.
The success of the Mexicali water management efforts ultimately depend on the day-to-day decisions made on the farm. NewStar operation and quality assurance staff remain abreast of basin-wide water management issues and monitor on-farm water usage over the time by reviewing annual irrigation records. At the field level, NewStar personnel bring an awareness to minimize water use and they take pride in employing years of experience in making judgments on when and how much to irrigate.
The investments made in water conservation in Mexicali reflect the company’s strong commitment to advance sustainability in its operations.