Our cooperative members come into direct contact with the environment on a daily basis so they are the first to be aware of the challenges we face. They are constantly adapting their agricultural practices to make them ever more sustainable. With them, we are investing in R&D in order to determine the best means of exploiting the full potential of our raw material, sugar beet.
Sugar beet cultivation has particularly important characteristics from an environmental point of view. In fact, the beet’s deep root system allows it to recycle any residual nitrogen present in the soil. By its very nature, the sugar beet is a purifying plant. Its cultivation is part of the crop rotation system and acts as a break in the fallowing process, with the effect of reducing the quantity of agricultural inputs needed across all of the rotated crops.
It also has only modest water requirements as in France it is cultivated in regions which benefit from adequate rainfall to ensure the plants are almost self-sufficient in terms of water.
Experimentation at Cristal Union brings together all of the sugar beet industry. Each year, the agronomy department provides around thirty test platforms in collaboration with our cooperative members in sugar beet cultivation areas.
The “Beet It” program, which is helping sugar beet producers improve the health of soils and ecosystems, was launched in the Fall of 2020 by Danone in partnership with Cristal Union and the ‘Pour Une Agriculture du Vivant’ (For A Living Agriculture) program in the north of France.
To present its latest innovations in the field of agronomy, the Group regularly organizes technical meetings in the field.
Quentin Tilloy, Assistant Head of the Cristal Union Agronomy Department, talks about the agri-environmental methods being developed by our agricultural R&D department on behalf of our cooperative members to improve the performance of sugar beet and meet society’s expectations:
The Group’s approach to agricultural sustainability
Interview with Bruno Labilloy, Agricultural Director at Cristal Union
Bruno Labilloy Agricultural Director
CRISTAL VISION smart sugar beet is above all proof of our commitment to our customers. From a more operational point of view, Cristal Vision is a benchmark that is unique to the Cristal Union Group and to its commercial subsidiary CristalCo and it can be used to assess and demonstrate the sustainability of our sugar beet production.
Why did you take this approach?
Agronomic performance and controlling the quality of our production form part of the strategic direction taken by Cristal Union since its creation in 2000.
This is the purpose of the various agronomy projects our teams have been conducting in collaboration with our cooperative members. New inquiries from customers coming into CristalCo about the sustainability of our agricultural production led us to implement a specific approach which demonstrates the expertise we have acquired over the years and the commitment shown by our producers.
Can you explain to us what CRISTAL VISION smart sugar beet ?
From a more operational point of view, Cristal Vision is a benchmark that is unique to the Cristal Union Group and to its commercial subsidiary CristalCo and it can be used to assess and demonstrate the sustainability of our sugar beet production.
This benchmark was launched in January 2015.
It is broken down into 3 stages for our cooperative members:
OK, so how is this approach perceived by your customers?
Cristal Vision smart sugar beet is the first of its type in France. It is now recognized by our main customers who have formed a group called the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI). For more than three years, Cristal Union and CristalCo have been part of a working group dedicated to the platform for the sustainability of sugar beet cultivation.
In October 2015, the SAI platform recognized the “CRISTAL VISION 1.0” program and declared it to be compatible with its FSA 2.0 (Farm Sustainability Assessment) benchmark. “CRISTAL VISION 1.0” will now enable our farmers to achieve the FSA’s “GOLD standard”. Moreover, this is the first time that the SAI platform has 100% recognized a proprietary benchmark.
Since June 2016, the Group has been an official member of the SAI platform.
What are the advantages for beet farmers?
CRISTAL VISION smart sugar beet provides:
This is ultimately a way in which everyone, employees and cooperative members, can progress.
The incorporation of some new factories three years ago led Cristal Union to undertake an assessment and to redefine its supply plans at our ten sugar factories in order to optimize shipping.
This flow optimization was conducted by attempting to balance the industrial output of the various facilities with production storage capacity.
The result of this optimization is that today the average weighted distance over which the beets are shipped by the Group is 28.5 km.
All of these measures, combined with the rationalization of our road transport fleet on to 44-tonne vehicles (99% of sugar beets headed for sugar factories were transported on trucks with a capacity of 44 tonnes in 2015 compared with 60% in 2008 and 75% in 2010) are helping to reduce the number of truck rotations and the distance traveled by transported sugar beets.