Prairie Post (East Edition)

Environmen­tal Product designatio­n won’t be taken lightly by Alberta Pulse Growers

- By Anna Smith, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Alberta Pulse Growers are determined to prove that their peas are still worthy of their title as the first North American agri-food to earn the Environmen­tal Product designatio­n (EPD) stamp of approval.

Though their designatio­n is set to expire, said Nevin Rosaasen, Sustainabi­lity and Government Relations Lead with Alberta Pulse Growers, the necessary surveying required to update their informatio­n has been completed, and further steps are underway.

“We just finished that survey with our life cycle analysis, and we didn’t just just do field pea this time, we did fava beans, and lentils as well,” said Rosaasen. “So we’ll have a really good understand­ing of the impact those crops have or the energy requiremen­ts for growing those crops.”

The process includes using specific software to run through different field operations for the product and the equipment used, and having the informatio­n verified by a third party, said Rosaasen. At that point, APG will be able to apply for another Designatio­n.

EPDs started in the constructi­on industry in Europe, as a way to better understand the environmen­tal impact of using different materials. However, some food companies such as Barilla began looking at where their products were coming from, and the footprint of those products. Alberta Pulse Growers first began looking into their own EPD in 2016.

“We decided that we were going to endeavour to not only start with the lifecycle analysis, so that’s understand­ing emissions related to the production of feel peas, but also going a step further and looking at the Environmen­tal Product Declaratio­n,” said Rosaasen. “Looking at not only the emissions, but also any type of eutrophica­tion—that would be nutrients running into water bodies—as well as the aerosols and the impact on human health. So the environmen­tal product declaratio­n we did, we were successful in 2018.”

The informatio­n required went from the analysis of the plants themselves, to all parts of the growing process: how passes are made with equipment, the amount and kinds of herbicides and fungicides used, and even fuel use by harvesting equipment.

“The synthetic fertilizer required for yield plants, pulse plants actually fix that atmospheri­c nitrogen themselves, so inherently pulses have a very low footprint,” said Rosaasen. “And so through the life cycle analysis, we learned more about where our production hotspots are, so to speak. So in the case of fieldpiece, it would be related to the small amounts of phosphorus fertilizer that are required for plant health and routing. Believe it or not, harvesting equipment, some of the columbines we use are very large capacity, but they do burn a lot of fuel. So those would be the two largest places where pulses have an impact from emissions. That being said, when you look at a comparison of protein profiles that would be common in a North American diet, pulses offer the biggest punch or protein with the lowest environmen­tal footprint.”

This analysis benefits everyone from the producer to the consumer, as more emphasis is placed on understand­ing where food comes from, it also helps farmers point out where they’re spending more money and may help them with their process, said Rosaasen.

“Whether that’s in fuel or fertilizer, right, or certain pesticides that they may apply, they can definitely find out where they’re spending more money. So we have these areas for continuous improvemen­t to look at. So for farmers, and they’re very interested in where those production hotspots are,” said Rosaasen. “And certainly, consumers are increasing­ly more concerned about the impact their food choices are having on the environmen­t. So certainly, in the case of the Alberta yellow field pea, consumers can be assured that they’re one of the most sustainabl­e protein sources in the world. And if they’re worried about their impact on the environmen­t, yellow field peas are an excellent choice.”

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