For seven months out of the year, 4D Farms in Springsteen, Manitoba, runs purely on power harnessed from the rays of the sun.
The 3,500-acre egg, grain and seed operation – which is home to about 4,500 hens – boasts a 144-kilowatt solar panel system that meets all of the farm’s electric needs from May to November.
“In the summer, we actually produce more power than we’re consuming,” notes Eric Dyck, a fourth-generation farmer who runs the business with his wife Sandra and mother Susan. “That allows us to feed green power onto the grid and further contribute to a sustainable economy.”
The Dycks are among the hundreds of egg farmers in Canada who are leading the way in producing a healthy and sustainable food source for the country’s – and the world’s – growing population. By 2050, about 9.7 billion people will inhabit the planet, a two-billion increase from current levels, according to the United Nations.
With more people to feed and more inhabitants putting pressure on the Earth’s resources, there’s an increasingly urgent imperative to advance towards agricultural and consumption solutions that are nutrition-conscious and sustainable.
“Canada’s egg farmers are constantly innovating to contribute to these solutions,” says Tim Lambert, CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada, the national organization that represents more than 1,100 regulated egg farmers across the country.
Eggs deliver the highest-quality protein through one of the most environmentally sustainable processes in food production today.— Tim Lambert, CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada
As an industry, we view sustainability from a holistic perspective that takes into account environmental and social sustainability.”
This holistic approach has yielded impressive results, which were highlighted in a recent study by Dr. Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus who holds the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair and Egg Farmers of Canada’s Research Chair in Sustainability.
Dr. Pelletier’s study found that, in the half-century between 1962 and 2012, egg production in the country increased by 50 per cent while the industry’s environmental footprint decreased by 50 per cent as farmers used 81 per cent less land, 41 per cent less energy and 69 per cent less water.
“Throughout the entire production system, Canadian egg farmers have significantly improved how they manage all the inputs that go into producing eggs – from advancements in technology and feed, to housing systems in the barn and disease management,” says Mr. Lambert.
Many egg farmers have embraced a “circular economy” where all key resources are repurposed, reused and recycled, adds Mr. Lambert. Others are working towards barns that produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is yet another example of how farmers are innovating and are working to be environmentally efficient,” says Mr. Lambert.
With the stability of the unique, made-in-Canada system of supply management – which matches supply with demand and ensures fair pricing for farmers – Canada’s egg industry champions innovations towards sustainability in many other ways. Through a comprehensive research program that covers a diverse range of areas, Egg Farmers of Canada supports a national research chair network that includes the Egg Industry Research Chair at Université Laval, the Poultry Welfare Research Chair at the University of Guelph, and the Public Policy Research Chair at the University of Waterloo.
Egg Farmers of Canada is also working with Dr. Pelletier at UBC on a National Environmental Sustainability Tool – or NEST for short – that will enable egg farmers to monitor and benchmark their performance on key sustainability indicators such as water use, chicken feed consumption and air quality in their barns.
“The goal with NEST is to provide a tool that will allow our farmers to see how they’re doing relative to other farms in their region so that they can continue to find ways to produce eggs more efficiently and sustainably,” says Mr. Lambert.
Canadian egg farmers’ efforts towards greater sustainability extends far beyond the country’s borders, says Mr. Lambert. Over the last five years, a group of farmers and Egg Farmers of Canada staff have partnered with farmers in the southern African Kingdom of Eswatini to build an egg farm as part of a large-scale project to provide nutritious food, education and employment to thousands of families suffering from malnutrition and disease.
“Through the International Egg Commission, we also support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and have formed partnerships around sustainable communities, sustainable development and climate action,” says Mr. Lambert, who is president of the board at International Egg Commission, a global organization headquartered in the United Kingdom.
As the world’s population continues to expand, Canada’s egg farmers will continue to innovate towards sustainable production of a highly valuable food source, says Mr. Lambert.
“Our farmers view sustainability not only as a responsibility but also as an opportunity to do the right thing for the right reason,” says Mr. Lambert. “That’s good citizenship, which also happens to be good business.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.