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16th April, 2018


Olam Spices & Vegetable Ingredients (SVI) created a traditional onion breeding programme which has shown remarkable advances in input efficiencies, significant increases in dehydrated product yields, and reductions in energy use and waste.

Olam’s dried onion and garlic breeding programme has been going strong since 1943. We knew onions were highly water-intensive crops, requiring large quantities for irrigation in the field – a significant issue in water-scarce regions such as California. Our aim was to use selective seed breeding to deliver onions with more dry matter. This would boost onion yield per hectare, and reduce the land, water and pesticide needed. We’ve curated and continuously improved the programme as it’s grown since it’s inception.

Today we’re the world’s largest provider of dehydrated onion and the programme produces the world’s highest solid onion content. This generates numerous supply chain efficiencies and quantifiable sustainability impacts that achieve customers’ sustainable sourcing goals. The benefits can be found from farm to fork and include everything from growing and harvesting to logistics and processing.

Growing and harvesting is given the best start by using our selected hybrid seeds. We’ve developed ways to use less acreage to plant and harvest. This reduces the levels of fertiliser, pesticide, and fungicide used. Also, less harvesting equipment and manpower is required. Together, these combined efficiencies produce a lower carbon footprint - with less water used for irrigation and less diesel for farm machinery. This reduces GHG emissions, lowers labour costs and increases incomes for growers.

Logistics benefit by being more streamlined. With drier onions it means fewer pounds to ship to the processing plant and fewer trucks required for transportation. This helps cut down GHG emissions and transport costs.

Processing is sped up. With harvested onions already dehydrated, days are saved in processing the final product. Plus, less energy and water is required, saving time and money.

The quality and consistency of onions has also improved through this selective breeding programme, benefitting Olam SVI’s customers. We’re looking to replicate the successes of the programme throughout our global SVI operations and we’ll continue to find innovative ways to improve sustainability by yielding the highest production using the fewest resources.