AUGA group: leading the way to a more sustainable food industry
Eco-friendliness has become a hot topic for the food industry over recent years. Consumers are increasingly choosing organic products because they are healthier, produced in an ethical way, and are grown without the use of chemical fertilisers. But according to one Lithuanian company, AUGA group – the largest vertically-integrated organic food company in Europe – it’s not enough to simply make eco-friendly products and find your place in the current market by fulfilling the needs of today’s consumers. Instead, companies need to take things a step further and act sustainably to safeguard the future of the planet. AUGA group goes the extra mile, embedding sustainability into the food industry – particularly in countries like Germany, where the organic food market is growing (1). For AUGA, the key to gaining international recognition is to follow principles of sustainability, and act upon them.
Germany is one of the largest European market for sustainable products. According to research carried out by the Agricultural Market Information Company (AMI) (2), in 2020 Germany’s organic market grew twice as fast as the general market for food, with consumers spending 22% more on organic food and beverages than they had the previous year. That surge in demand has continued into the first quarter of 2021. AMI’s research also shows that when cooking at home, Germans mostly choose organic, healthier, and more sustainable products (3). When asked what aspects of organic foods are important to them, consumers listed protecting the environment and climate change, animal welfare, a healthy diet and fair production conditions – all factors that are central to sustainability in the food industry.
“People want sustainability, and that trend has increased still further during the pandemic,” says Laurynas Miškinis, head of research and development into organic products and commerce at AUGA group, adding: “It’s also very important to pay attention to agriculture itself, which together with forestry produces 23% of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect.” Laurynas says that AUGA group acknowledges it is part of a global industry that produces a great deal of pollution, and is actively seeking to change this dynamic. AUGA group’s goal by 2030 is to become a climate-neutral company that produces no greenhouse gases. To achieve this, the company is implementing a sustainable business model with the help of innovation.
So what does it take to produce food sustainably? Companies need to invest in technology and innovation. “Today, one of our solutions is to re-use organic manufacturing waste,” explains Laurynas. “We also use environment-friendly minimal tillage (‘min-till’) farming methods for nearly 100% of our working fields. In addition, green electricity is used for all of our buildings.”. As impressive as these measures are, the company recognises that it needs to do more – and is aiming to develop even more innovative and sustainable farming technologies.
AUGA group is implementing several projects to achieve its goal of becoming an agricultural technology (‘AgTech’) company. The first of these is to develop biomethane-powered agricultural machinery and the use of biogas, which will enable its farming operations to be run without fossil fuels. As part of this cycle, manure is used both as a fertiliser and as a source of biofuel. AUGA group’s second project is a specialised animal feed technology, which measures the impact of feed on cattle’s digestion. The company also pays great attention to regenerative crop rotation, in which grain crops are rotated with leguminous plants that have the ability to ‘fix’ carbon and nitrogen in the soil.
AUGA group has already made a name for itself in the German market, mostly exporting grains and dairy products. According to Laurynas Miškinis, the company’s most promising product line is organic ready-to-eat soups, which match the trend towards healthy eating. These soups are not only vegan and gluten-free, but also come in sustainable packaging. Most of the company’s production is exported. In 2020, AUGA group exported its products to 37 countries around the world, from the United States to Australia.
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