Some areas of Dole’s operations are fortunate to have an abundance of water available, while others face a scarce supply. This is why Dole’s water management programs are tailor-made to the conditions of each area.
Defining the Need for Irrigation
The purpose of irrigation is to supply adequate amount of water when rainfall is not sufficient or timely to meet the crops’ water needs. Since the 1980s, one of Dole’s priorities has been to develop a more scientific approach to better schedule the irrigation of bananas and to apply water only when and where necessary as a way to compensate for water deficiencies in the soil.
In order to assess the need for irrigation, several factors must be considered:
- Weather conditions such as rain, humidity, evaporation
- Weather forecasts
- Crop capacity for water absorption
- Water available in the soil
- “Allowable” water deficit for issues such as crop resistance
When new farming areas are in need of irrigation, the first step is to obtain information and guidelines for the production zone and begin planning based on its specific conditions.
Dole uses high-technology devices to measure water balance and soil moisture. This methods allows the Company to avoid under- or over-irrigation, ensure an even water distribution, conserve energy, reduce chemical leaks and decrease fertilizer usage in the irrigation system as a way to minimize negative impacts on the environment.
In addition, Dole constructs reservoirs that capture rainwater for irrigation and reduce the need to use deep well water.
Water Recycling Programs for Banana Packing
Water has three main purposes in the banana packing process:
- As a cleaning agent to remove debris and insects.
- As a holding and carrying agent while bananas await cluster formation and selection.
- As a latex removal agent.
The traditional packing process requires up to 150 liters (39.63 gallons) of water to pack a single banana box (18.14 kilograms or 40 pounds). Water is used to fill two pools, one for de-handing and one for latex removal, and is constantly flowing for proper utilization.
In the early nineties, Dole developed a partial recirculation system that used sand and gravel filters as a way to reduce water usage to 100 liters (26.42 gallons) per banana box.
At the same time, Dole introduced some remote areas of the Philippines to the Mobile Banana Processor – a miniature version of a standard packing plant, but with a 97% reduction in water use compared to standard plants.
Water Use in Dole’s Agricultural Practices
Because water is one of nature’s most valuable resources, Dole strives to manage it with optimum care, efficiency and respect. The Company’s Management Systems are certified to ISO 14001 and also include water reduction goals.
Similarly, our research department is constantly exploring new agricultural techniques and processes that use less water. As a starting point, Dole implements Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) – guidelines for optimizing crop yields, while protecting the environment. For example, GAP’s recommendations for maximum water absorption include monitoring root health on a regular bases and improving soil structure through minimum soil compaction and tillage. Our research department also actively tests and implements more precise irrigation systems.
Water Use In Industrial Processes
Dole Packaged Foods’ (DPF) canneries in the Philippines and Thailand use metering conveyor spraying on/off systems as a way to limit water usage. Continuously spraying fruit consumes 227 liters (60 gallons) per minute, but when the metering conveyor stops, automatic valves immediately block the water supply.
To further reduce water usage, the DPF canneries in both the Philippines and Thailand recycle condensate water from evaporators. Once collected, the condensate water is used for boiling fruit. In Thailand alone, this system allows the recycling of over 38,500 m3 (1,360,000 ft3) of water per year.
In order to protect water quality, Dole uses biodegradable cleaning products. In addition, natural barriers and plant covers are implemented to protect water bodies in canals. Surface water is routinely monitored (usually four times per year) for nitrates, phosphates, total suspended solids and pesticides.