EASTON, Maine — International potato processor McCain Meals is developing 5 photo voltaic services in Aroostook County that they are saying will energy half of certainly one of their largest vegetation.
The corporate has begun building on the former Loring Air Power Base and 4 different unnamed areas in Aroostook and plans to have the photo voltaic gardens on-line this fall to assist energy its Easton facility. McCain’s has dedicated to lowering emissions by 2025 and utilizing 100% renewable electrical energy by 2030, in line with an organization spokesman.
The photo voltaic plan is among the newest efforts to fight local weather change amongst Maine’s agricultural producers, who’re already threatened by each extra rain and drought situations. Smarter farming and efforts to create climate-resistant potatoes have helped. McCain is growing sustainable practices and grower schooling so farmers can succeed because the local weather adjustments, mentioned Curtis Swager, senior director of presidency and exterior affairs.
“Local weather change is an existential menace. We’ve seen droughts, excessive droughts even there in Maine,” Swager mentioned Friday.
The Easton challenge is a key step within the firm’s North American vitality plan, he mentioned. The 5 photo voltaic installations will generate greater than 35,000 megawatt hours of electrical energy per yr, sufficient to supply 50 p.c or extra of the native plant’s energy.
In addition to the Loring location, photo voltaic arrays shall be constructed at a closed landfill and three different areas on land that’s unsuitable for farming. Swager didn’t establish the opposite locations resulting from agreements with land companions.
As extra photo voltaic arrays have popped up statewide, the potato trade and land preservationists have been involved a few of them can be positioned on tillable soil.
McCain goals to take land that has no agricultural manufacturing worth and repurpose it to generate energy.
“The farmers are part of this. They’re our grower companions and so they’re our future,” Swager mentioned. “The very last thing we’d need to do is disrupt any usable farmland.”
Together with its renewable vitality plans, the corporate is growing strategies to assist producers farm sustainably by its two Farm of the Future laboratories, one in Riverbank, New Brunswick, simply south of its Florenceville headquarters, and the opposite in South Africa.
Scientists at these labs are cultivating methods to assist farms thrive, diversify crops, preserve wholesome soil and scale back chemical use, amongst different objectives, Swager mentioned. The corporate hopes the analysis will present extra instruments to guard farmers from the results of local weather change.
It’s a part of what the processing big calls its regenerative agriculture framework, wherein it has developed key objectives for potato farming. With their two numerous areas, the Farm of the Future labs can take a look at methods that incorporate traits of various climates, then supply them to growers to allow them to select what works on their very own farms.
Growers can progress by climate-friendly farming practices that change into extra complicated at every degree. The corporate desires to see all of its potato growers at the least originally degree by 2030, Swager mentioned.
McCain employs 4,500 individuals, and in addition to Florenceville and Easton, operates vegetation in Burley and Nampa, Idaho; Othello, Washington; Grand Island, Nebraska; and Appleton, Plover and Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
The Easton plant employs 400 individuals and continues to be certainly one of McCain’s pillars of U.S. and North American manufacturing, Swager mentioned.
Although particulars aren’t out there but, the native plant is engaged on a group initiative known as Blossom to Superior, he mentioned. Management at every plant decides what initiatives are greatest for his or her areas.
Previous initiatives have included donating to meals banks, renovating recreation facilities and repairing baseball fields.
All these efforts will assist the potato processor present sustainable, scrumptious meals with a watch on local weather change and renewable practices, Swager mentioned.
“Certainly one of each 4 french fries is a McCain french fry,” he mentioned. “And prospects have advised us they need meals that displays their values.”