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Growing a staple food with less water & fewer GHG emissions in India
Agriculture in India, a water intensive sector
PepsiCo, a consumer products company, operates several beverage manufacturing plants in India. Engaged in a process of securing a reliable water supply for its operations, PepsiCo committed in 2003 to conserve more water than it uses.
In India, all industry accounts for about 6% of total water use, whereas agriculture uses over 85% of the country’s water. The country is also among the largest rice growers in the world, growing about 144 million tons of paddy over roughly 44 million hectares. Indian rice has traditionally been cultivated via a conventional, waterintensive method that begins by sowing seeds in a small nursery where they germinate into saplings. The saplings are then transplanted manually to a field and grown in 10-12.5 cm of water at their base for the first 6-8 weeks.
PepsiCo has therefore identified rice growing as a main opportunity for water use reduction in the country, and has consequently implemented a program based on direct seeding methodologies of rice.
Water savings through direct seeding of rice
PepsiCo’s R&D team has been experimenting with direct seeding of rice (DSR) for four years. With the DSR method, seeds are sown directly in the field and do not require water at the crop base. This saves 30% (2.25 million liters/ ha) of the water historically needed in rice seeding.
PepsiCo has also introduced a special tractor with a direct seeding machine to automate the process, and given Indian farmers free access to the tractors and to field technicians who guide them through the entire cultivation process. In addition to saving water, the new technology is reducing costs for farmers by 3500 rupees per hectare as compared to their traditional methods.
In 2009 DSR was perfected, and extended to 2630 hectares throughout India, resulting in a saving of 5.5 billion liters of water. This significant reduction of water use has allowed PepsiCo India to achieve positive water balance – giving back more water than its business consumed. More importantly, it has reduced water usage in a country where water is an increasingly precious commodity.
In late 2009, PepsiCo received confirmation from a nodal body of the Indian Government that, in addition to the significant water savings that direct seeding affords, it also reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (from decreased methanogenic activity) by over 70%, which will create new business opportunities when this new method of GHG reduction is certified in the future.
This program has helped PepsiCo India to become a positive water balance company, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, therefore enhancing its sustainable image, and securing its license to operate in the country.