Focused on doing more with less, Lipman Produce is known for its sustainable practices when producing its diverse range of vegetables. The company, which is the largest field tomato grower in North America, employs some of the latest technology in order to farm responsibly.
Nourishing The Land
As a vertically integrated company, Lipman is involved in research and development, farming, packing, processing, repacking and procurement solutions. Although it is based in Immokalee, the company has several locations across the United States and in Mexico, and much of the farmland has been used for several generations – since the 1930s – when founder Max Lipman planted his first tomato.
“Sustainability has been a buzzword lately, but it’s something that has been important to the Lipman family from the beginning,” says Justin Roberson, production systems and sustainability manager for Lipman. “We’ve been farming now for five generations here in Florida, and the majority of the land we farm on we’ve actually owned for many decades. That is a testament to the principles of sustainability we’ve had from the start – we’re doing something right.”
Ultimately, the concept of sustainability isn’t just an idea Lipman embraces; it’s a crucial part of the company’s business model.
“For sustainability to really work, it has to provide value to the organization,” Roberson says. “So we approach sustainability as a value-added, integrated component of our business. If we are able to optimize our resources, reduce energy use across our operations and manage our water better, those efficiency gains are naturally going to drive costs out of our system and have a direct impact on our bottom line.” Irrigation ditches help contain and conserve water and keep the land healthy.
Conservation Efforts in Motion
With an emphasis on reduction, optimization and replenishment, Lipman has several practices in place that, when added together, help make the company a leader in sustainability.
For example, the company’s drip irrigation system has helped reduce their water consumption by 70 percent. Each farm has solar-powered irrigation controls and micro-irrigation technology that deliver water and fertilizer near the root system, and advanced evapotranspiration adjustment technology tracks precipitation, wind and temperature to determine how much water the plants need each day.
“We only give the plants what they need,” Roberson says. “We’re able to irrigate our plants on an as-needed basis, which means we can control our water usage much more effectively and efficiently.”
To further minimize resource consumption, Lipman has added five acres of a retractable Cravo greenhouse on its Naples farm for grape tomato production. The structure protects against the harsh environmental conditions that can stress the crop and stimulate the spread of disease. The company has also developed a natural breeding process for its tomatoes that enhances flavor, improves shelf life, strengthens disease resistance and increases yield.
“When we’re able to develop a tomato that yields a lot more on a bush, we’re able to do much more with less,” Roberson says. “With almost the same amount of input from an irrigation and fertility standpoint, we’re actually yielding more out of our crops.”
In addition, each of Lipman’s Florida packing/repacking facilities has been updated to include efficient lighting technology, reducing energy consumption by 56 percent. When it comes to recycling, all plastic and corrugate – including more than 1,000 tons of plastic mulch – are recycled each year.
“We’re making decisions from a farming and production standpoint that will position us for the next 20 years,” Roberson says. “We’re not just going from year to year, trying to hang on – we’re making investments in our land and property that are mindful of the generations to come.”