Mission Produce: Water Management in San Luis Obispo, CA

Meet Greener Fields Together National Farms Partner:

Founded in 1983, Mission Produce is a global processor/distributor of avocados. headquartered in Oxnard, CA, Mission Produce sources its avocados from independent growers in California and internationally. In 2003, Mission partnered with California Polytechnic State University and developed a 62-acre orchard in San Luis Obispo, California.

5Ps Verified Case Study: Water Management
Mission is committed to using water efficiently and productively to provide safe, high-quality produce. As part of this commitment, Mission manages a 62-acre avocado orchard using cutting-edge water and nutrient management technologies at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo, CA. SureHarvest documented and verified Mission’s water management efforts at this orchard using the 5Ps of Sustainability™. 

Sustainability Highlights
Mission has implemented an innovative, fully-automated system to manage water and nutrients at its San Luis Obispo avocado orchard and is well-positioned to make continuous improvements to this system. By taking the initiative to adopt cutting-edge technologies, then sharing its experience with its grower suppliers, Mission has demonstrated its commitment to advance water and nutrient management in avocado production.

Mission’s innovative approach enables the company to irrigate and fertilize precisely when and where the trees need it to optimize production using less water and fertilizer per unit. The company has found that its investments in water management innovations result in significant savings in labor costs, three times higher than average fruit production, and higher-value fruit.

1. Sustainability Principles
Mission is driven by excellence and committed to:

  • Providing avocado growers quality service and strong financial returns
  • Being known for the highest quality products in the marketplace
  • Providing quality product, free of contaminants, that are safe and delicious for consumers

The company strives to meet its objective through its core values to be innovative, reliable and trustworthy.

2. Sustainability Processes

Mission is committed to implementing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and using water efficiently and productively at its San Luis Obispo orchard to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply. To meet its commitment to grow more using less, Mission established its San Luis Obispo ranch to try different cutting-edge irrigation and fertigation techniques and technologies.

3. Sustainability Practices
Mission installed a fully-automated water measurement and delivery system along with a precision fertilizer dosing system that allows staff to remotely control and adjust inputs on demand from anywhere, 24 hours a day. Other key practices using innovative technologies 

include an on-site weather station, automated soil moisture devices, pressure-compensating sprinkler heads, and pressure regulators on irrigation risers. The company is committed to implementing irrigation distribution uniformity testing and system maintenance to ensure consistent performance in its water management process. By fully automating this system and continuously monitoring real-time orchard conditions, Mission is able to deliver water and fertilizer with greater accuracy directly to the root zone of the trees. This approach allows the farmers to better prevent leaching while using less water and fertilizer with each application. With the touch of a computer key, staff can respond to the needs of the trees by remotely controlling irrigation pumps, valves, and filters, dosing precise amounts of fertilizer and adjusting pH accordingly. 

4. Sustainability Performance Metrics
The sophisticated weather and irrigation management system collects a variety of performance metrics, including evapotranspiration, precipitation, air temperature, humidity, dew point, and wind speed. Soil moisture and temperature is gathered within the root zone to a depth of 20 inches, and saturation and wilting point parameters are set to ensure water and nutrients are applied to and remain within the zone with maximum root density. Tissue, soil, and water analyses are done to determine the input needs of the trees.

5. Sustainability Progress
Mission directs its growers to take steps toward becoming better producers while running more sustainable daily operations. Mission’s orchard manager and other field representatives hold informal weekly meetings to keep up to date with cutting-edge research and formation, which is then generally communicated to Mission’s 700 independent growers. 

The company’s automated system allows it to monitor its product and make adjustments as necessary to optimize resource use. Over the past three years, using efficient and highly responsive applications of water and fertilizer, Mission has produced more than three times the county average in avocados. 

Mission staff and management hold weekly sales and sourcing meetings to evaluate company performance and establish action items to ensure the company meets its goals and adheres to its core values. Mission has a strategic plan that the executive team reviews quarterly to create detailed action plans. The strategic priorities are rolled out annually to department managers, who in turn engage staff working at all levels within the department to develop an implementation strategy to ensure success and consistency with the strategic goals.

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