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Our continuous commitment to reporting on Valagro's sustainability
For about 40 years Valagro has been helping farmers to get the best out of their crops by optimising their use of resources and production inputs with one aim in mind: creating a sustainable future for people and nature. This is an objective that cannot be achieved without an inherent coherence that characterises not only the solutions offered to the global market, but also the production processes and corporate culture.
The Sustainability Report is a useful tool that helps us explain our consistent and constant commitment to sustainability year after year. It is an act of responsibility towards the wider community in which we operate and with which we hope to cultivate a culture that is increasingly respectful of the environment and attentive to the needs of the community.
The data illustrated in the rest of this document refer to Valagro SpA's environmental, economic and social achievements
The Valagro Group in figures
Joining Syngenta Crop Protection
For Valagro, 2020 marked a 'new dawn', as in October the Group joined Syngenta Crop Protection, a world leader in agricultural innovation.
This synergy, as part of which Valagro remains an independent brand, opens an important chapter for the two companies, combining their commitment and experience to jointly and more effectively respond to the agricultural needs of the future. In this new scenario, Valagro will be able to strengthen its commitment to Biologicals and offer farmers an even wider range of innovative solutions that guarantee quality, productivity and sustainability at the same time.
Valagro and Syngenta Crop Protection do not only share a common mission of achieving a sustainable future for agriculture, but also a common approach based on the centrality of technological innovation. If we are to pursue a vision of sustainability that is not only environmental, but also social and economic, we need to look beyond the solutions that have already been developed and propose new, better ones that leverage innovation and take into account the challenges of the future.
It is for precisely this reason that the two companies have decided to join forces in pursuit of a new concept of agriculture, one that can respond effectively to the ever-increasing demand for food and at the same time ensure the wellbeing of the environment.
Two companies, one team. This is the approach with which Valagro and Syngenta Crop Protection intend to face the future, united by the desire to work together to build a healthier, more habitable and responsible world.
Valagro's 40th anniversary and the inauguration of the Research Centre
In 1980, Giuseppe Natale (the current CEO) and Ottorino La Rocca (co-founder and former President) created Valagro with a dream of a sustainable future for people and nature. Now in 2020, 40 years after Valagro was founded, we are not only aware that this future can be a reality, but we also know we are well on our way to realising it.
In 2020, Valagro celebrated its first 40 years in business: 40 years of commitment, growth and obstacles to overcome, but also of great innovation. Today, Valagro is a world leader in the research, production and marketing of biostimulants and nutritional specialities, with 13 branches all over the world, yet it retains the same root system that has always nurtured it, centred on people and their wellbeing - a wellbeing that is inseparable from that of the environment.
The security measures taken due to the Covid-19 emergency did not prevent us from celebrating the anniversary, which was marked with an online event entitled "Creating the Future. Since 1980" alongside national and international employees, customers, authorities and opinion leaders.
On this same occasion, Valagro officially inaugurated its new Research Centre. A total of 3,600 square metres of covered surface area, housing 12 laboratories, a growth chamber, conference rooms, lecture halls and warehouses, as well as more than 1,000 square metres on the roof of the building dedicated to greenhouses, equipped with cutting-edge technology and divided into four sections (Agronomy, Physiology, Pathology and Spray Area). These are the key figures of the futuristic structure located at the Group's Abruzzo Headquarters. Within these spaces, the teams of Valagro's Global Research Department will conduct research and experimentation in the fields of chemistry and formulation, microbiology, plant physiology, "omics sciences" and agronomy, supported by the application of computational and bioinformatics approaches, in order to develop innovative solutions in the Biologicals sector, including biostimulants, biofertilisers and products for biocontrol.
This newly established Research Centre provides a powerful impetus to strengthen GeaPower®, Valagro's proprietary technology platform from which its innovative crop solutions are derived, and with which Valagro aims to meet the requirements of farmers around the world for abundant, quality harvests obtained in a more sustainable manner. Furthermore, the Research Centre's collaborative and open environment will encourage the creation of a true innovation ecosystem with external partners, reinforcing the open innovation approach that has always characterised Valagro's research.
As indicated in previous versions of our Sustainability Report, in order to correctly interpret the indicators relating to the environmental impact of Valagro SpA's activities, it is necessary to examine the relationship between these indicators and the value of production.
Compared to 2019, production in 2020 has increased by around 6%, while the company continued to improve its environmental impact indicators.
A more in-depth analysis can be found in the EMAS - Eco-Management and Audit Scheme declaration available on the Certifications page of the Valagro website.
Following the rationalisation of purchases to select suppliers who are able to guarantee supplies without packaging (in silos, tanks or with fully reusable returnable packaging), there has been a stabilisation of the total amount of waste generated, a sign that the improvements have succeeded in reducing the amount of waste generated per tonne of fertiliser produced.
With regard to atmospheric emissions, the quantities of metals emitted per tonne of production in 2020 remained stable despite an increase in production. This is thanks to triboelectric detectors that improve the detection of filter bag leaks; furthermore, the use of selected raw materials and the continuous search for higher environmental performance aim to reduce atmospheric emissions as much as possible. Metal emissions remained a significant target in 2020, which the company was able to properly manage.
VOC - Volatile organic compounds (II - III - IV)
As regards the volatile organic compound emissions (phenol, isobutyl alcohol and isobutyl acetate), it is important to note that their level is influenced by the production mix. Increasing levels of VOC IV were found in 2020, but they were still below the authorised limits. This was due to the COVID-19 emergency, which caused a shift towards products using VOC IV in the production mix during the first half of 2020.
Thermal energy is one of the most critical factors in a company's production processes. During 2020, we saw a reduction in the thermal energy indicator (toe [ton of oil equivalent]/Ton PF) and this was due to a move towards less energy-intensive products in the production mix. Using the cogeneration plant within the production process has made processes involving heavy use of processing heat more efficient.
Energy and CO2 Emissions
At present, the cogeneration plant is a cornerstone in the optimisation of Valagro SpA's energy consumption. Its installation has made it possible to increase plant productivity, especially as regards the drying phase, taking advantage of the capacity to process all the semi-finished products coming from the reactors and thus guaranteeing high production standards. In addition to the thermal capacity, the plant provides approximately 400 kW of electrical power. This has made it possible to reduce the share of electrical energy purchased from the grid and to achieve an overall process efficiency (electrical and thermal) of over 85%.
Valagro believes that water is an indispensable and precious primary resource. For this very reason, efforts are made to minimise the consumption of mains water through a system of collection and use of rainwater for technical purposes. In 2020, there was an increase in water withdrawal that was mainly due to an increase in the production of products in liquid form (especially biostimulants). In addition, the low levels of rainfall in 2020 resulted in a reduction in the availability of rainwater.
Launching Talete on the market
Valagro's innovative biostimulant, Talete, was unveiled in November 2019 at the 4th World Biostimulant Congress and was launched on the market in Italy, Spain, Mexico and Colombia in early 2020 through a series of meetings open to distributors, technicians and agricultural producers in different locations in the four countries.
Talete is the innovative solution that was developed by the GeaPower technology platform to increase Crop Water Productivity, i.e. to guarantee an increase in production or economic yield for each unit of water used in agricultural production. Talete is intended to promote sustainable production both in conditions where there is sufficient water availability and where there is permanent or temporary shortage.
Atessa - Headquarters
A number of improvements were carried out at the Atessa Headquarters during 2020, aimed at optimising time and resources, as well as a general focus on sustainability, including:
Atessa - plant
Main developments during 2020 at the Kristiansund site:
Main developments carried out during 2020 at the Brønnøysund site:
IFA Industry Stewardship Champion Award
Valagro's commitment to Safety, Health and Environmental Protection was recognised in 2020 when it was awarded the Gold Medal in the context of the IFA's Industry Stewardship Champion Award.
The IFA (International Fertiliser Association) awards the title of Industry Stewardship Champion to companies that have adhered to the latest Safety Performance, Environmental Performance and Energy Efficiency parameters and CO2 Emission standards, and are IFA Protect & Sustain certified or hold internationally recognised certifications, such as ISO, OHSAS and Responsible Care.
The award given to Valagro recognises the company's dedication to making environmental performance and the safety of its employees a central focus of its day-to-day work, bearing witness to a process that places the maintenance of a healthy and safe working and non-working environment at the top of its list of priorities.
Valagro Corporate University becomes more and more digital
its launch, the Valagro Corporate University has promoted digital learning, providing both free learning platforms and mixed digital/in-person formulas, and has represented Valagro's desire to become a 'learning organisation' capable of evolving and promoting its own growth.
The 2020 pandemic has accelerated the process of knowledge distribution worldwide, with a sharp increase in global connection. In Valagro, a large part of the training has been carried out digitally, multiplying participation, providing strong moral support and a message of resilience, while at the same time ensuring extensive development of soft skills across the Group.
Consolidation of Project Management practices
During 2020, Valagro decided to make the working methods within the Group more efficient by disseminating a solid shared Project Management approach. Thanks to the work of the Task Force set up for this purpose, the Valagro Project Management (PM) Standard was then drawn up, based on a manual and a series of templates available to current and future project managers and members of the working groups. In addition, colleagues with different experiences in project management at the Valagro Corporate University have become facilitators in the distribution of the Valagro standard, with the aim of encouraging people to adopt a data-driven mentality and to share language and working tools, in keeping with the continuous improvement mentality cultivated at Valagro.
Valagro Academy is a programme designed to share our expertise in crop nutrition and biostimulants with Valagro customers and to illustrate how Valagro solutions can improve crop performance to enhance agricultural efficiency and sustainability. Since its formation in 2016, training activities have mainly taken place in-person, but since February 2020 (and for much of the year), training has taken place predominantly online due to the global emergency health situation.
Between training sessions dedicated to the Valagro Sales Network Team on the world of plant nutrition and biostimulants and specific events focused on the local needs of customers, the commitment of Valagro's Marketing Team and Market Development Managers has continued to ensure the Academy's high-quality training and support activities remained at maximum, even at a distance.
Research activities progressed smoothly in the year 2020, undertaken by the Global Research Team and in full compliance with safety regulations. This has made it possible to continue producing scientific articles and filing patents, as well as scientific communication in virtual mode.
In terms of research, Valagro continued its commitment to the two projects "RECOVER" (for the recovery and valorisation of absorbent hygiene products with the aim of producing nutritional solutions for agriculture) and "INNOPAQ - Sustainable innovation for quality agri-food productions" (aimed at the study and development of biostimulants in order to improve the characteristics of certain typical crops in the area), both of which had already taken off in 2019. Similarly, collaboration continues with the University of Bari as part of an industrial doctorate project for the development of the aquatic plant Posidonia on the Mediterranean seabed.
The panorama of research projects in which Valagro participates was further enriched by the start of the Bicy project: "Biostimulant increase crop yield", which had its initial co-ordination phases in August 2020, and by the launch of the first interactions between the Valagro and Syngenta research groups in relation to two strategic fields of application: biostimulation ("crop enhancement") and biocontrol. Through thematic "deep dives" (plant science, microbiology, plant pathology, innovative technologies and models, etc.), the project opportunities and synergy of the Valagro-Syngenta binomial were analysed, identified and prioritised. All with the aim of meeting the needs of present and future Agri-Businesses in the light of ongoing climate change.