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Our sustainable philosophy

An interview with Guecello di Porcìa

What led you to consider electrical generation from alternative sources?

One always encounters a certain reluctance to discuss with complete frankness  the commercial possibilities represented by investments in installations offering revenue streams that are complementary to and consonant with agricultural activities, almost as if one should prefer not addressing  the economic advantages of the renewables sector.

It is my conviction, on the other hand, that the construction, management, and maintenance of a solidly green economy is what in fact will not only promote and nourish the sustainable philosophy and activities of this or that virtuous business or group, but will bring into concrete reality the vision of a world that is truly sustainable.

We are certainly not, therefore, going to be content to speak obliquely about such a green economy. No, because it is thanks to institutional, in-place economic advantages (tax incentives, regional or European financing) and to successive, concrete benefits, such as revenue from sales of excess energy to the commercial grid, that we agriculturalists are able to contribute to keeping our businesses healthy and their activities thriving, and to continue to invest in alternative energy sources, thus making a concrete contribution to a better future for our Earth.

Vitivinicultural operations too obviously consume primary resources taken from their immediate environment (water resources and organic substances). I want to avoid the much-denigrated green-washing, that brush-stroke of green paint that is so in fashion, which would consist in declaring  that what led us to consider electric generation from alternative sources was a generic (and sudden) “love” for the environment. My agricultural business has always respected the environment, through always focusing on crop diversity, utilising the traditional agricultural model of crop rotation and utilisation of locally-based crops. It follows then that diversification in the agro-energy sector is perfectly compatible with our traditional production model. Our biomass digesters are “nourished” by our own corn and triticale silage, and the output returns to the earth as fertiliser and as material on the floors of our cattle stalls.

Government incentive policies, such as the2006 financial law, for example, afforded us the opportunity of re-structuring out-dated buildings in our operation (installing solar panels on the roofs of stalls and warehouses), thus ensuring improvements through the entire production chain, right to the final product.

 

Bio-gas plant at the Fattoria di Azzano

What are the specifics of your production cycle and what is your electrical energy production (what contribution does it make to your energy needs)?

Sun, earth, man-power, and advanced technology: only the combination of these factors brings us our cereal grains, soy, grapes, walnuts, poplars, pasturage. Production and processing take place on our two agricultural estates, Porcía and Azzano Decimo. Our production cycle is a perfect one (see attachment): production, processing, marketing and sales.

In the case of wine, the cycle is from the vine to wine (we are not simply bottlers but winegrowers); in the case of corn, from cultivation to nutritional utilisation for the Pezzata Nera

cows that produce milk (which goes to the Latterie Friulane dairy), to utilisation for fermentation in the production of bio-gas, to its re-utilisation as organic fertiliser for the fields. Our electrical energy requirements are around 345,000 KW, while we produce 9,000,000 KW.

 

What are the amortisation periods of your investments?  

We calculate that the investments in bio-gas and hydro-energy will pay for themselves in 4 years, and that in solar energy in 7 years.

 

How do you combine, in marketing terms, your energy production with your core business (wine)? And how do you communicate that to the final customer?

It will be increasingly important for us wine producers to communicate our ethical values, particularly those of respect for the environment and for the common good, in the very presentation of our finished product, so that our customers can become aware of our production philosophy and thus choose us equally for what we do in the production of that wine and not simply because our wine pleases or is offered at a “good price.” ISO 50001:2011 certification designates us as an “Energy Saving Company”. In late May, we will begin the process of quantifying our Carbon Foot Print: by initial evaluations, we should qualify as “carbon footprint neutral,“ but we obviously need precise numbers for the quantification.

In order to give the final customer total information, we have decided to change the back label on our wine bottles, and we will explain what the ENERGY SAVING COMPANY logo means. We are also considering a strip label on the neck of the bottle (in particular for the lines that go into the mass-distribution channels) that will make us stand out visibly and more distinctively on the retail shelf with a very strong and immediately-understandable “green” message.

 

What other innovation attention is Friulan agriculture demonstrating today (apart from energy)?

Considerable resources are being devoted to improvements in hothouse vegetable and flower production, since the medium-sized structures utilise automation, thereby reducing labour, as well as alternative energy sources, thereby reducing expenses for lighting and heating. Another relevant area could be the raising of indigenous breeds of cattle and pigs, since this type of operation presumes a short production chain from producer to consumer.