The Lithuanian company bringing sustainability to the food industry
Many consumers choose organic products not just because they are healthier, but also because they are grown without chemical fertilisers. AUGA group, a Lithuanian business that is the largest vertically-integrated organic food company in Europe, believes that businesses can do more for the environment than simply producing eco-friendly products – they need to operate sustainably. To ensure its place in the current market and fulfil the needs of today’s customers, AUGA group is going the extra mile to make sustainability relevant to the food industry. This is particularly important when entering the Dutch market, where households especially value organic products. For AUGA group, acting upon the principles of sustainability is the key to gaining international recognition.
Consumers in the Netherlands are buying an increasing number organic products. According to the Bionext trend report for 2019, even occasional consumers of organic products were already buying them more often (1). And not only do the vast majority of households (89%) buy organic products in the supermarket, but specialised organic stores are growing and expanding too.
Within the Netherlands itself, organic agriculture is expanding. Over the past 19 years, the area of land devoted to organic farming has grown by 1.5 times (2). This is even exceeded the European Commission’s Green Deal target, under which countries are required to grow organic agriculture by 25% by 2030 – a goal that goes hand in hand with the idea of sustainability in the food industry.
“People want sustainability. We have already found that the pandemic has intensified this trend,” says Laurynas Miškinis, AUGA group’s head of organic product research and development and commerce. “Our next argument concerns agriculture itself – which, together with forestry, produces 23% of gases that cause the greenhouse effect.”
AUGA group is already aware of the fact that the agriculture industry is major producer of greenhouses gases – and it wants to change things. This is why the company is pursuing a climate neutral position, which can be achieved through innovation under the company’s sustainable business model. In addition, AUGA group aims to cease being a net producer of greenhouse gases by 2030.
The question still remains – how exactly can a company produce food sustainably? It all starts with investment in technology and innovation. “Today, one of our solutions is to re-use organic manufacturing waste,” shares Laurynas Miškinis. “We also use environmentally friendly minimal tillage (min-till) farming for almost 100% of our working fields. Moreover, green electricity is used for all of our buildings.” The company recognises that it can do even more for the climate, which is why it is already developing further innovative farming technologies. Using these sustainable technologies, AUGA group hopes to make the costs and yields of organic agriculture even better than those of traditional farming, as well as reducing the greenhouse gases generated by its agricultural processes and encouraging a positive change across the whole food chain.
In a further effort to gain acclaim as a pioneer of agricultural technology (AgTech), AUGA group is working on a number of innovative projects. First, the company is developing biomethane-powered agricultural machinery and using biogas to enable its farming operations to run without the need for fossil fuels. As part of this process, manure is used both as a fertiliser, and as a source of biofuel. Its second project is a specialised technology for animal feed, which can be used to measure how the feed impacts the cattle’s digestion. The company is also focusing on regenerative crop rotation, which is performed when grains are rotated with leguminous plants that have the ability to ‘fix’ carbon and nitrogen into the soil. AUGA group is also developing systems based on AI and robotics to cultivate mushrooms. These systems both increase mushroom yield, and make them safer to eat.
Based in Lithuania, most of AUGA group’s production is exported abroad. The company has already made a name for itself in the Netherlands, exporting grains and canned products to the Dutch market. In 2020, AUGA group exported its products to 37 countries around the world, from the United States to Australia.
Photos by AUGA
The new industrial revolution often called Industry 4.0 sets a new standard for countries, and it seems like Lithuania is prepared quite well. What about Germany? Even though it’s one of the industrial leaders of the world, there are some things where Germany is still lacking. Let’s have a look at things that Germany could learn from Lithuania while making Industry 4.0 a standard of today instead of a standard of the future.
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