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Spud Giant Closes Loop on Sustainability

J.R. Simplot, the nation’s largest potato grower and provider of McDonald’s french fries, has created an internal value-chain loop out of its sustainability practices.

Simplot, which has about $4.5 billion in annual sales, takes waste slurry from its phosphate mining operations and pipes it 87 miles underground to a plant where it’s converted to fertilizer this is used in potato-growing operations, according to the firm’s sustainability report.

By-products from the firm’s food processing and fertilizer plants are used to provide water and nutrients to neighboring farms via “land application” that is tailored to meet the needs of the specific crop being grown.

By-products from potato processing plants are fed into anaerobic digesters to capture biogas, which is used in boiler systems at Simplot’s plants in Aberdeen, Moses Lake and Portate La Prairie.

The Moses Lake facility alone is able to reduce its annual emissions 15,000 tons a year because of this process.

In 2008, Simplot began using oil from its french fry facilities to create biodiesel that is used in its transportation and mining equipment. The project has created more than 100,000 gallons of biodiesel.

With regard to reducing emissions, Simplot installed a wet electrostatic precipator in its Nampa pototo processing plant, as well as others.

Simplot, which also operates the nation’s largest cattle feedlots, has come under fire in recent years for its environmental practices. In fact, in 2008 Conde Naste Portfolio called Simplot the nation’s “worst polluter.”

Earlier this year, two of Simplot’s plants were among the first food processing plants in the nation to be Energy Star rated.

Simplot produces 3 billion pounds of frozen french fries a year and sells more than 1,000 food products.

Its cattle herd numbers 30,000.

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