Water Management of California Blueberry Operations

Meet Greener Fields Together National Farms Partner:

Naturipe is a partnership between four fresh berry growers: Hortifruit S.A.; Michigan Blueberry Growers; Munger Farms; and Naturipe Berry Growers. Naturipe growers are found throughout the Western Hemisphere, providing year-round strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries, as well as local varieties when in season. Its partnership with Munger Farms, a family-owned farm in the San Joaquin Valley, has resulted in the largest source of fresh blueberries in California.

5Ps Verified Case Study: Water Management
Naturipe is committed to economic, social, and environmental sustainability, including its water management practices, for its California blueberry production. Recognizing blueberries’ sensitivity to water and the value of this scarce resource, Naturipe intensified its irrigation management program in 2012 using automation and technologies to increase water use efficiencies while maximizing production. SureHarvest documented and verified Naturipe’s California blueberry water management program using the 5Ps of SustainabilityTM.

Sustainability Highlights
Naturipe brings a well-rounded and comprehensive approach to its California blueberry operations through a broad sustainability policy. Naturipe is making significant progress in formally establishing and maintaining its process of continual improvement in water management at its blueberry operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Through increased water conservation efforts, Naturipe expects to see significant and continuous water savings.  The company also expects its investment in irrigation efficiency technologies to result in reduced water costs, increased yields, and higher product quality.

1. Sustainability Principles
Naturipe manages its California blueberry operations to create a sustainable community and industry based on four principles:

  • Economically and efficiently produce sufficient, safe, and nutritious food
  • Sustain and enhance natural resources
  • Maintain viable farming enterprises and contribute to sustainable livelihoods
  • Sustain and enhance natural resources

2. Sustainability Processes
Naturipe recognizes that water is a scarce, limited resource and is committed to making every drop of water as productive as possible.  Because of the importance of water in blueberry production, Naturipe has intensified its efforts during the past year to develop a more comprehensive and effective water management program.

3. Sustainability Practices
Naturipe has implemented a variety of practices to improve the efficiency of its all-drip irrigated California blueberries. Improvements include water treatments that ensure water flow and food safety. Also, Naturipe uses irrigation management software that assists with scheduling, monitoring, measuring, and verifying the optimal amount of water to apply. The irrigation system allows for the responsive, precise, and judicious application of water through its automated system of self-metering and setting the rate that water is supplied to the drip lines.  To further refine its water decisions, Naturipe uses weather data collection stations throughout its operations.

A training program for key field personnel is under development to ensure quality and consistency in water and nutrient management across Naturipe’s California blueberry operations.

4. Sustainability Performance Metrics
Naturipe has experts personnel who field-proof conditions to further refine and optimize their irrigation system.  Field staff monitor soil moisture, plant condition, leafing, distribution uniformity, drip line blockages, fertilizer applications and other indicators to assist in effective irrigation management.

Naturipe uses automated sensors to capture soil moisture data at various depths in the soil. Using this data from the past few years, Naturipe has been able to establish a crop-specific evapotranspiration irrigation schedule. Using its surface water flow meter, Naturipe also tracks and compares water supply to water use.  This information allows the company to identify inefficiencies and possible water losses.

5. Sustainability Progress
Naturipe prioritizes linking annual business goals to sustainability goals and continuous improvement by conducting regular monitoring of its practices and internal training of its personnel. As a key component of Naturipe’s commitment to social responsibility and continual improvement, the Board of Directors develops an annual business plan that includes its social responsibility priorities to be adopted by each business partner. 

Upper management team members tie their annual work plans directly to these strategic goals, and employee compensation is based on meeting these goals. Naturipe’s Board meets quarterly to evaluate progress toward its strategic goals. 

Across its California blueberry operations, regular contact throughout the company is maintained to evaluate resource use and production costs as a way to continuously monitor and correct inefficiencies in production. Regular staff meetings are conducted with farm managers to identify concerns and develop action plans to optimize resource use efficiency and production.

The success of Naturipe’s water management efforts ultimately depend on the day-to-day decisions made on the farm. Naturipe’s management is involved with the irrigation district and various boards and committees regarding regional water management issues.  Both management and field personnel monitor on-farm water usage over time by reviewing annual irrigation records and bring an awareness to minimize water use. They take pride in employing years of experience in making judgments on when and how much to irrigate.

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