UK's first carbon neutral potatoes hit shelves

A unique potato producer is working with growers in Pembrokeshire to launch what it says are the UK's first carbon neutral potatoes to hit supermarket shelves.

Root Zero potatoes, grown in Pembrokeshire, are certified carbon neutral and grown using sustainable farming practices to remove carbon dioxide, create healthy soil and increase biodiversity.

Welsh grower Puffin Produce has measured every contribution to the potatoes’ carbon footprint - from the power used on the farm to the transport used to take them to the supermarket.

The carbon neutral potatoes have launched this week and will be available in two hundred Co-Op stores across the UK.

Huw Thomas, CEO of Puffin Produce, said: “We’re on a mission to become carbon neutral and farm in a way that protects and regenerates our land, plants and wildlife.

“We are hoping that Root Zero will be the first of many carbon neutral, responsibly grown, sustainably packaged products that will start to tackle the huge impact of the food industry on climate change."

Based on the findings from the footprint assessment, Puffin Produce has set a target to reduce the carbon intensity of Root Zero potatoes by 51% by 2030, covering emissions from across the supply chain.

The firm has also committed through the Science Based Target Initiative to a company-wide 1.5°C target to reduce its operational emissions by 46% by 2030.

While it works towards that reduction goal, the grower is investing in carbon offset projects that will neutralise all currently unavoidable carbon emissions.

The grower's initiatives such as planting mixed rotations of cover crops help sequester carbon

The offset projects supported include reduction schemes which cut emissions as well as removal projects which absorb greenhouse gases.

Root Zero has partnered with two specialist organisations, 3Keel and Climate Partner, to support its climate reduction and offset goals respectively.

Simon Miller, managing partner of sustainability advisors 3Keel who supported the development of Root Zero, said: “The carbon footprint of farming, storing, packing and transportation of potatoes have all been measured, with decarbonisation plans now in place at every stage.

"In the short term, Root Zero potatoes will also be made carbon neutral from investing in high quality offsets, and over the years more trees and larger hedgerows on the Pembrokeshire farms will take up carbon dioxide emissions."

Root Zero is minimising greenhouse gas emissions from its whole production process by breaking down its overall footprint to look for improvements in farming, production and transport practices.

These include growing new varieties of potato which do not require storage at low temperatures, using more fuel-efficient tractors and electric cars and moving towards 100% green electricity use from 2023.

Root Zero will also be generating its own green energy by installing solar panels at its production site and wind turbines on its farms.

A commitment to sustainable farming practices will also remove carbon from the atmosphere, regenerate soil and increase biodiversity.

This will be made possible through initiatives such as planting mixed rotations of cover crops which sequester carbon and the use of abated fertilisers which reduce nitrous oxide emissions.

The company will plant 445 acres of cover crops including sunflowers

And on farmland, 445 acres of new cover crops are being planted which, as well as sequestering an estimated 97,900kg of carbon dioxide, will boost soil health and provide additional habitats.

Welcoming the launch, Helen White, from Love Food Hate Waste, noted that potatoes are the most wasted item in the UK - everyday 4.4 million potatoes go to waste from homes.

"One of the best tips to prevent unnecessary potato waste is to keep the skins on when you cook them – something that Root Zero suggests to customers on its packaging," she said.

"As a signatory to WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2030 Puffin’s Root Zero initiative to introduce carbon neutral potatoes is also something we welcome."

The carbon neutral potatoes have launched this week and will be available in 200 Co-Op stores, with further supermarket availability expected to be announced soon.

Source: Farming UK