A key focus here is the unique, nearly complete, utilization of the agricultural resources consumed and reliance on energy-efficient, low-emission production technologies. When it comes to the environment, AGRANA thus demonstrates compellingly that ecological and social responsibility make good economic sense.
Complete raw material utilisation
Production of feedstuffs and fertilisers closes the ecological loop
In parallel with the well-known, high-quality foods and intermediate products for the downstream processing industry, AGRANA pursues the most sustainable, complete possible utilisation of all its agricultural raw materials by manufacturing a very extensive range of valuable by-products, especially in the Sugar and Starch segments. For each tonne of sugar, approximately one tonne of by-products is also generated, and the Starch segment produces about 0.6 tonnes of co-products per tonne of starch.
The sugar and starch plants offer the by-products carbonated lime and potato fruit water as fertilizers and soil conditioners. Sugar beet pulp, potato protein and (Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles), which is sold under the name ActiProt, are distributed as high quality feed ingredients. In the fruit sector, pomace is sold to the pectin industry or as a feed ingredient.
These by-products make a substantial contribution to the Group's profitability while also fulfilling an ecological function. Widely used as feed and fertiliser, they ensure that important minerals and other nutrients return to the natural environment, thus establishing a desirable closed loop.
“input-output analysis” for AGRANA's corn starch plant in Aschach
This principle can be illustrated by an annual “input-output analysis” for AGRANA's corn starch plant in Aschach, Austria. The values below are based on dry weight.
At the Aschach starch factory, 356,000 tonnes of guaranteed non-GMO corn of many varieties and about 3,000 tonnes of consumables were turned into 228,000 tonnes of marketable starch and saccharification products, 82,000 tonnes of feedstuffs and fertilisers, 24,000 tonnes of corn germ for the production of corn oil, and 18,000 tonnes of intermediate products for further processing in the potato starch plant in Gmünd, Austria. In addition, 2,000 tonnes of corn cobs, corn dust and other organic residuals were used as sources of energy in the nearby biogas facilities. Overall, 359,000 tonnes of input materials were thus converted into 354,000 tonnes of valuable products, amounting to 98.6% utilisation of the input factors.
One raw material = four products
At the Pischelsdorf site, the close integration of the wheat starch plant and the bioethanol factory enable the cereals processed to be utilised to an extent of 100%. Those raw material fractions not utilised in the production of wheat starch and of gluten are used to produce bioethanol and ActiProt®, the premium GMO-free protein feed. Including the high-purity biogenic carbon dioxide which industrial gas group Air Liquide harvests from the fermentation tanks of the bioethanol plant, the Pischelsdorf complex thus manufactures four high-quality products from a single raw material.
Energy & emissions
In the 2018|19 financial year, we covered about 80 % of our total direct energy consumption by natural gas. Around 7 % of our direct energy consumption was covered by renewable energy sources.
The energy management systems of approximately 46 % of all AGRANA production sites are certified to ISO 50001.
Our Aim for continual improvement By the end of 2020|21
Energy use per tonne of main and co-products remains stable at the level of 2014|15
site-specific efficiency gains amounting to a reduction of 76 GWh of energy use by 2020|21 through efficiency-boosting projects
Reduction of specific direct energy consumption per tonne of product (core and by-products) by 5% from the very good base year 2013|14
Water & waste water
The smart solution: We use the water contained in the agricultural produce itself for production purposes. This means that a significant volume of the water that a sugar refinery needs reaches the refinery in the raw materials to be processed – the sugar beet. Sugar beet consist of around 75 % water; water which is extracted during the production of sugar. This water is not only used to extract the sugar from the cossettes (the sliced sugar beet), but also for transporting and cleaning the sugar beet. The water used is repeatedly cleaned and recirculated. This system functions similarly in the case of producing juice concentrate from apples, which have a water content of around 86 %.
On-site or communal waste water treatment plants at all sites ensure that waste water is appropriately treated. Only waste water which has been cleaned and which complies with the applicable environmental standards is discharged.
Water use and discharge in processing
Water use and discharge in processing at AGRANA sugar plants (within the GRI report boundary)
|Water withdrawal in m³ per tonne of core and by-products||2.33||2.14||1.61|
|Water discharge in m³ per tonne of core and by-products||3.64||3.19||2.78|
Water use and discharge in processing at AGRANA starch plants (within the GRI report boundary)
|Water withdrawal in m³ per tonne of core and by-products||5.02||5.11||4.47|
|Water discharge in m³ per tonne of core and by-products||4.36||4.69||4.76|
Water use and discharge during processing at AGRANA Fruit segment plants (within the GRI report boundary)
|Water withdrawal in m³ per tonne of core and by-products||4.20||4.39||4.27|
|Water discharge in m³ per tonne of core and by-products||4.05||4.03||4.07|
High utilisation rate minimises waste
Waste & Disposal Methods (see organisatoinal reporting boundaries)
(Source: Reports by waste management contractors; AGRANA calculations)
|Waste disposal, in tonnes||36,701||28,474||70,837|
|of which hazardous waste, in tonnes||343||52||189|
|% waste per tonne of product||3.8%||2.2%||3.8%|
|% hazardous waste per tonne of product||0.036%||0.004%||0.010%|
|Waste disposal methods;|
Organic products in all business segments
Organic Wiener Zucker
While organic sugar in the past was largely imported from Africa as organic raw sugar, during the 2008|2009 campaign AGRANA for the first time produced organic beet sugar in accordance with the requirements of the EU directive on organic farming. During the first growing season (2008), around 300 hectares of land was cultivated by around 80 farmers. These figures have approximately more than doubled in a few years.
In the interests of ensuring an economic cycle which is as complete as possible, the refining of organic sugar also entails the manufacture of by-products such as organic animal feed and fertilisers. This nearly complete recycling of agricultural commodities allows quantities of waste products to be reduced and is consistent with the underlying principles of ecologically sound economic practices.
AGRANA's organic beet sugar is available in retail outlets under the Wiener Zucker brand and is also sold to the food processing industry.
Organic starch products
In its Starch segment, the mill in Gmünd processes organically grown potatoes a year to produce organic starches and starch derivatives. The Aschach mill processes organic corn. Both mills make use of the latest environmentally sensitive processing methods. The AGRANA facilities in Aschach and Gmünd are among the first industrial processing plants in Europe to be certified as organic processors.
Organic starches are used in nearly all processed organic food and semi-luxury food products such as desserts, soups, sauces, snacks as well as chews and jelly-based products as an indispensable thickening, stabilising and flavouring agent
Organic Fruit Preparations
As studies have highlighted, besides eggs, milk and bananas, organic fruit yoghurts are among the most frequently purchased organic foods in Austrian retail outlets. It is highly probable that the fruit contained in these products is from AGRANA given that AGRANA Fruit Austria and Germany are the European market leaders in organic fruit preparations. These products have been produced at our facilities in Konstanz, Gleisdorf and Kröllendorf for over 20 years on the basis of close cooperation with customers.
The strict regulations applicable to organic products also entail additional requirements placed on AGRANA in terms of the traceability of the ingredients. Pursuant to EU directives, fruit preparations for use in organic fruit yoghurts are not permitted to contain any preservatives or colouring agents; restrictions which have a major influence on the careful selection of the fruit to be processed. Furthermore, organic fertilisers such as compost, manure or slurry have to be used instead of synthetic chemical fertilisers. Weeds and pests have to be controlled primarily by mechanical means or so-called 'natural enemies'. In order to be able to meet these requirements, AGRANA sources its commodities exclusively from growers with whom it has established long-term partnerships or from its own fruit plantations. In Poland and Ukraine, AGRANA operates its own processing plants in which the freshly harvested organic fruit is sorted, cleaned and freeze-dried as soon as it is picked.
Organic Fruit Juice Concentrates
The trend in favour of organic products has also caught on in the beverages industry. Consumer demand for organic juices has led AGRANA Juice to respond accordingly and extend its product range to include certified organic fruit concentrates. This new organic product line includes apple and elderberry fruit juice concentrates as well as the extraction of organic flavourings during the production of apple juice.
In the course of its good cooperations with contract farmers, AGRANA Juice continues to encourage the expansion of organic growing practices in order to also be able to guarantee customers outstanding safe product quality in the years ahead.
In the near future and with an eye on other consumer developments, AGRANA Juice plans to extend its organic product range to include, for example, premium quality fruit juices such as raspberry
The harvests of many crops, particularly those of fruit-bearing plants and trees, are heavily dependent on pollination by bees. In addition to the wind, water, birds, bumblebees and wild bees, the honey bee plays a particularly important role in pollination. As a processor of agricultural produce in its Sugar, Starch and Fruit segments, the long-term quantitative and qualitative availability of agricultural commodities forms a fundamental precondition for AGRANA’s business operations. As a result, and as part of its sustainability initiatives, AGRANA started a project in 2016 to protect honey bees. What this involved in detail was the location of ten bee hives at each of the AGRANA production sites in Austria and at its head offices in Vienna.
In 2013, an initiative was launched in the Waldviertel in cooperation with the Lower Austrian Government to protect the local population of bats. Around 25 species of bats live in Austria, many of which are classified as endangered. Approximately 30 farmers, all of them suppliers of potatoes to the AGRANA starch mill in Gmünd, have installed boards for bats to use on their commercial buildings in the summer due to the fact that alternatives such as hollows in old trees and ventilation openings in buildings are becoming increasingly scarce. Installing these boards is a tangible way of helping bats and population counts soon highlighted the success of the project as these alternative dwellings were being increasingly used.
Bird protection – WADERS
In an area defined as having a high biodiversity value by the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands, and in cooperation with the association AURING, AGRANA has established much needed resting places for water birds, particularly waders, along the banks of the open sedimentation basins at the AGRANA sugar refinery in Hohenau an der March, in Austria, which has been decommissioned since 2006. These resting places have since become an interesting destination for excursions by ornithologists.
LITTLE OWL PROJECT
The little owl (Athene noctua) is threatened by extinction in Austria. In order to survive, it requires a landscape characterised by a varied structure such as meadow orchards with hollow trees in a village setting. These structures are typical of the western Mostviertel region in Austria. That’s why efforts are being made to settle little owls here by installing breeding tubes. In 2016, AGRANA took on the patronage of the little owl in the Mostviertel region, acting through its subsidiary AUSTRIA Juice which is based here. AGRANA is financially supporting the purchase and installation of the little owl breeding tubes as well as their maintenance and evaluation by the regionally-active organisation Forum Natur und Artenschutz.