Savéol, the Breton Farmers’ Cooperative that Promotes “Responsible, Positive Agriculture”

Savéol, the Breton Farmers’ Cooperative that Promotes “Responsible, Positive Agriculture”

Savéol, France’s leading tomato producer, now sells their produce in 100% cardboard packaging, after having initiated the creation of a “grown without pesticides” label and opened an insect farm.

In 2022, Savéol will be celebrating their 60th anniversary. In over a half-century of existence, the Brittany-based cooperative has reconsidered its practices in order to move toward – in the words of their president, Pierre-Yves Jestin – “responsible, positive agriculture.” The cooperative now employs some 2,500 people, generates €203 million in annual revenue, and represents 125 truck farmers. It is also France’s largest tomato producer. Every year, 80,000 tons of tomatoes and 2,500 tons of strawberries are sold through their distribution channels, which include both supermarkets and specialized produce shops and stalls.

As early as the 1980s, when greenhouse farming first appeared in France, Savéol’s teams got right to work on improving their techniques. “We were pioneers in that field,” Pierre-Yves Jestin informs us proudly.

“We developed systems for reducing energy and water use, and for protecting crops.”

To control the greenhouse whitefly, which can inflict a lot of damage, farmers tried the services of the fly’s natural predator, tiny wasps called Aphelinidae. In 1983, a dedicated structure, Savéol Nature, was launched. Its mission is to raise and sell those crop-protection allies.

– A 130-Million-Insect Farm

The insect farm now raises 130 million tiny stinkbugs and wasps a year, for annual revenue of €2.3 million. “Integrated organic pest management is a tradition and a specialty here at Savéol,” Pierre-Yves Jestin goes on. “We have total control over the process.” In 2019, the “grown without pesticides” label was created, and other cooperatives in Brittany have signed on. Savéol also realized that packaging was a crucial issue. In 2015, they began switching to 100% cardboard packaging for their produce, and the switch was definitively adopted in 2019.

Since this year, all of their tomato farmers have received Level 3 “High Environmental Value” certification. Managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and supported by NGOs and supermarket distribution channels, the certification rewards Savéol’s ethical practices that preserve natural resources and the environment: from drip watering systems to harvesting rainwater, via respecting biodiversity on the land where greenhouses are installed. These efforts all serve the same goal, “Growing high-quality produce, that tastes great and is harvested ripe,” the president of the cooperative declares in conclusion.

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