Almond Industry Launches Major Strategic Effort to Accelerate Innovation and Sustainability

Almond Board of California (ABC) launches major new strategic effort designed to make the almond industry even more efficient and sustainable[1].

Dec 08, 2015, 17:00 ET from Almond Board of California

MODESTO, Calif., Dec. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Almond Board of California (ABC) today launched Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM), a major new strategic effort designed to make the almond industry even more efficient and sustainable.1 "Through our Accelerated Innovation Management program, the Almond Board will accelerate its investment in sustainability1, almond tree and farming research, and step up efforts to develop new partnerships and collaborations, which will drive four major initiatives to move the entire industry forward," said Richard Waycott, President and CEO of the Almond Board of California. The four major initiatives are:

  • Water Management and Efficiency - A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation scheduling and management practices to get the most crop per drop of water. This initiative, which builds on the 33 percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years2, includes a range of activities from working with farmers to fine tune irrigation techniques to adopting more advanced water management technologies.
  • Sustainable1 Water Resources - An exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond industry, its acreage, for accelerating natural flood-year groundwater recharge of aquifers. California's aquifers are collectively the state's largest water storage system and water recharged through this program would benefit all Californians, not just farmers. A second part of this initiative will look for opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, such as municipal wastewater, as a way of increasing overall water availability for farmers and all Californians.
  • Air Quality - Investigating various ways the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley's exacting air quality standards.  This will delve into the various ways almond production impacts air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions. From analyzing industry fossil fuel use to small- and large-particle pollutants, all components of almond farming that impact air quality are under scrutiny. This initiative will identify alternatives that will result in cleaner air for all those who live in California's Central Valley – farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.
  • 22nd Century Agronomics - A recognition that we need to better understand and then adopt the technologies that will lead California farming into the 22nd century. Almond Board of California will lead a comprehensive exploration of almond farming techniques, bringing an exploratory mindset to consider all options as to what innovations and technical "leap frogs" will be needed to sustainably1 farm in the future. Each component of almond farming will be considered, from land preparation and varietal development, to equipment and processing.

Waycott noted significant progress already on two of the initiatives – Sustainable1 Water Resources and Air Quality -- and said that the industry will keep consumers and customers apprised of major research projects in these and the other initiative areas in the months and years ahead.

"Our recent partnership with Sustainable Conservation is exploring the potential of using California almond orchards for accelerated recharge of Central Valley groundwater. Research this winter will channel excess winter flood water into almond orchards in several test sites, including Merced, Stanislaus, and Fresno counties where a UC Davis study will track soil moisture and water movement, tree response, detailed root development and growth response," Waycott said. 

"On air quality, the Almond Board, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and others are carrying out a new USDA-funded pilot project designed to give both almond and corn growers greater access to greenhouse gas markets like those under California's cap-and-trade program," Waycott said.  The project builds on nearly ten years of funding by the Almond Board of California to improve nitrogen management and better understand greenhouse gas emissions, particularly nitrous oxide (N2O), from almond orchards.

The EDF project also dovetails with Almond Board-funded research to understand better the energy flows and the associated greenhouse gases over the average 25 years of an almond orchard's life.  Life Cycle Analysis research on growing almonds by UC Davis showed that the industry could become carbon neutral, or even negative, if policy changes and production advancements work hand-in-hand.3

"Farmers are innovators. Since almonds were first planted in California, over 150 years ago, almond growers have adapted, changed, and pushed ahead to improve best practices and develop new technologies. The Almond Board's research programs have driven this innovation since their inception in 1973 and through this new program, we carry on and accelerate that important tradition," Waycott said.  

"We will make investments today that will put the entire industry in a stronger position 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Already a leader in the size and value of our crop to California, the AIM initiatives will take our industry's leadership to the next level with innovation responsive to the changing California business and agricultural environment. Above all, we want Californians to know almonds are a desirable and high-value use of precious resources entrusted and allocated to growing food in California," Waycott added.

AIM will complement the California almond industry's legacy of continuous improvement through over 40 years of research. With a more nimble and adaptive program, AIM will implement commonsense guidelines, develop innovative practices and cultivate advanced technologies that will lead to continued improvement in efficient and sustainable1 farming.

"For decades, the Almond Board has invested millions of dollars in critical research leading to important advancements which continue to support almond growers as good stewards of the land," Waycott said. "In fact, over the last two decades, industry-funded research overseen by the Almond Board has allowed farmers to reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent. Our research has also helped develop orchard practices that better promote healthy environments for honey bees and ensure the safety of workers, local communities and ecosystems. The California almond community understands the value of critical research, and we're doubling down on this important work."

About California Almonds 
Almonds from California are a natural, wholesome and quality food. The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,800 almond growers and processors in California, many of whom are multi-generational family operations. Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit or check out California Almonds on Facebook, TwitterPinterestInstagram and the California Almonds blog. For additional facts and statistics about almonds and the almond industry, please read the 2016 Almond Almanac here.

Carissa Sauer
(209) 343-3284

1 California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.

2 University of California. UC Drought Management. Feb. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 66 – Crop yield in response to water. 2012. Almond Board of California. Almond Almanac 1990-94, 2000-14.

3 University of California – Davis. Greenhouse Gas and Energy Footprint (Life Cycle Assessment) of California Almond Production Report. 24pp.

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1. Almonds are a vital contributor to California jobs and economic growth, especially in the Central Valley.

  • A study by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center found that almonds generate 104,000 jobs, add more than $11 billion a year directly to California's economy and generates $21 billion in California economic activity. Additionally, almonds generate 15 percent of California farm output, 25 percent of agricultural exports and are "a major contributor to a healthy and vibrant agriculture and a sound California economy."1

2. Almond trees contribute to overall water efficiency by producing three products in one. Besides the kernel we eat, the hull is used for livestock feed, and shells are used as alternative fuel to produce electricity and as livestock bedding.2

  • Using all parts of the almond reduces the amount of water that otherwise would be used to grow crops for feed and bedding, such as hay. Sustainably using the kernel, hull, and shell helps the industry move toward becoming carbon neutral or carbon negative with respect to California's battle against greenhouse gas pollution, according to a recently published UC Davis Life Cycle Analysis of almond orchards3.

3. California is one of only five places on earth with the Mediterranean climate suited to growing almonds commercially.

  • More than 80 percent of the global almond supply is grown in California. More than 90 percent of California almond growers are family farmers, many third and fourth generation families who live on the land, employ people from local communities and plan to pass it along to their children and grandchildren4.

4. California almond farmers are true leaders in water efficiency, having reduced the amount of water needed to produce a pound of almonds by 33 percent in the past two decades.5

  • California almond growers are innovating water efficiency solutions now and for the future. The Almond Board of California has funded nearly 100 water research projects over a period of 30 years. Through this innovation, more than 70 percent of almond orchards use micro-irrigation and other research-based methods to use water most efficiently.6

5. Almonds are unique in so many ways, except one: the amount of water they use.

  • Data from the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources describes the water needed to productively grow fruit and nut trees across California's various growing regions and shows that almond trees, and the water needed to grow, them are in line with other California fruit and nut trees.

1 University of California Agricultural Issues Center. The Economic Impacts of the California Almond Industry. December 2014.

2 Larry Schwankl, et al. Understanding Your Orchard's Water Requirements. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Publication 8212. February 2010.

3 Kendall A. Marvinney E, Brodt S, Zhu W. Life cycle-based assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in almond production. Journal of Industrial Ecology. July 2015.

4 USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture.

5 University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.

6 California Almond Sustainability Program. January 2014.

SOURCE Almond Board of California