Pork industry makes significant effort to return water to the ecosystem
Within the Chilean industrial sector, pork production is not as water-intensive as other large industries such as agriculture or mining. However, it still requires a continuous supply. “Over the last 20 years, pork production has become highly efficient. Significant investments have been made in these three sectors to improve efficiency in the use of water […]
Within the Chilean industrial sector, pork production is not as water-intensive as other large industries such as agriculture or mining. However, it still requires a continuous supply. “Over the last 20 years, pork production has become highly efficient. Significant investments have been made in these three sectors to improve efficiency in the use of water and also in advanced treatment systems, which allow water to be treated, recirculated, and returned to the ecosystem,” says Daniela Álvarez, Head of Sustainability of ChileCarne, the Chilean Meat Exporters’ Association.
According to figures from the Chilean Ministry of the Environment, a circular economy -which in many aspects is based on the efficient use of water- allows for a 33% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions countrywide. Added to the environmental impact, it also implies multiple benefits in social terms, thanks to the creation of jobs related to recycling and new technologies. In economic terms, it represents savings of up to 3% or 4% of the country’s GDP.
The agricultural sector offers great opportunities for circular economy thanks to the continuous improvement on slurry treatments for the production of organomineral fertilizers for agriculture. That means that along with recycling nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other elements, it helps in recovering soil and water organic matter, thus contributing to the balance of ecosystems. On the other hand, it generates renewable energy and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
Industry initiatives that promote efficient water use
In the pork industry, one of the most implemented assets of circular economy is fertigation, which consists of mixing pork slurry with irrigation water to be used as a fertilizer. It adds macro and micronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc., to the soil, but it also provides key organic matter to improve its quality and structure.
Chilean pig producers have strengthened their engagement with the communities where they are located by implementing distribution systems for this valuable fertilizer in a collaborative model with farmers and neighbors, who benefit from fertigation in their fields.
Currently, 100% of the slurry generated is used for fertigation and distributed to the companies’ own fields as well as farmers in neighboring communities and fields adjacent to livestock farms. It contributes greatly to agricultural production, not only because it hydrates crops, but mainly thanks to the contribution of organic matter and nutrients that improve soil fertility and various properties such as moisture retention, which is key for crops to better withstand water stress.
According to Daniela Álvarez from ChileCarne, “the slurry from 76% of Chile’s pigs is treated with state-of-the-art technologies, such as activated sludge plants, biodigesters, or worm trickling systems, allowing for recirculation in the process and thus higher efficiency in the use of water.”