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Growing for the better

Blue Lab

2. Zero Hunger 6. Clean Water and Sanitation 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Bluelab is an industry leader in high precision measurement devices. They have operated in this space for over 30 years. In 2020, Bluelab unveiled a new purpose for their products which was “the art of growing for a healthier world.” Through Bluelab’s newly found mission they have focused efforts on education and innovation to deter unsustainable growing practices. They hope to use their innovation to maximize yields and sustainability in a controlled agricultural environment. Bluelab has identified 5 goals that they align with their sustainability targets: zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, industry innovation and infrastructure, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.

Author

Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Jeff Thies

Jeff Thies

Innovation

Bluelab has always focused on controlled agriculture to maximize yield for growers. Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA) is Bluelab’s target consumer which lies mostly within the horticulture industry. The horticulture industry focuses on sustainable growing practices like recycling water, efficient management of nutrients, and minimizing waste (run-off). Also, indoor farming is part of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels for food logistics. Vertical farms and container farms are popping up in urban areas, or areas with less-than-ideal climate for growing, which shortens the distance from where the plants are grown to where they are consumed. As indoor farming practices continuing to mature, Bluelab expects them to also consume less energy and integrate renewable energy sources for things like HVAC and lighting systems.

Within the next few years, Bluelab investing heavily in responsible consumption. Bluelab is redesigning their products to allow for longer lifespan of core components, and recycling of components that have a technical barrier towards increasing their lifespan. “We’ve done a complete review of our products with the goal of reducing electronic waste,” Says Greg Gamarra. Bluelab will continue to work with growers to help achieve their plant’s full potential but also ensuring that they are not being wasteful with over watering, being efficient with use of nutrients, and operate more sustainably. Bluelab understands that this journey will be a long one and wants to be hand in hand with growers throughout the entire process.


Growing for the better

Inspiration

“At the heart of it, the team at Bluelab have individual passions for looking after the environment. When Bluelab rebranded in 2020 to cement the purpose of “The Art of Growing for a Healthier World”, we researched the internal team, stakeholders, and customers, finding a consistent value was sustainability. Research further cemented the Bluelab values and alignment with our team, stakeholders, and customers,” states Freyja. The passion was driven by a top-down approach starting with CEO, Greg Jarvis. His desire was matched by Head of Product and Innovation, Jono Jones.

“Jono Jones has spearheaded the initiative internally. He was able to paint the larger picture of how growing impacts everything from global hunger to clean water and sanitation,” says Greg. “From there, he’s pushed our product and manufacturing teams to consider areas where we can improve our sustainability and social equity impact. We’ve started a Global Impact Committee, which is a team that sits across the entire company and looks for opportunities to give back to our respective communities through volunteering, donating to local programs like community gardens, and much more.”


Overall impact

“The most promising statistics so far are that by keeping sustainability front of mind during a packaging rebrand, we were able to remove 3.36 tons of plastic being created every year,” states Freyja. Bluelab’s strategy for sustainability is a multi-step process that begins with its own people. Their first step will be to explore and develop their people as a part of their larger sustainability goals. “The Bluelab team all have responsibility and shared ownership is pivotal to a successful sustainability strategy. We have a small internal sustainability team of around five people. I am part of this team, and help to drive the strategy and implementation, says Freyja.” They want to reduce their plastic and waste as well as increasing recyclability and lifespan of their products. “Ambition and commitment to a triple bottom line fuels innovation and forces us to challenge what we know and how we do business.”

Second, Bluelab will focus on influencing their suppliers, with the hope that sustainability can extend to their external business ecosystem. Next, Bluelab wants to engage with the scientific community. Their projects with NASA and The University of Florida have helped laid the foundation for continued scientific efforts in the future. Finally, Bluelab plans to use their influence to help train and educate the grower community. “By encouraging more growers to see the benefits of hydroponics, many statistics support that hydroponics uses around 93% less water than traditional agriculture, we anticipate that better resource management will result in reduced water waste –extremely important.”


Business benefit

Though Bluelab’s initiative is very new, they have already gained a lot of traction within new projects and exposure from those projects. “In the last year, Bluelab has created educational resources with NASA, the University of Florida and more, in order to pull down the barriers of CEA knowledge and make it more accessible to growers everywhere. Bluelab’s purpose is the heart of everything we do, which has supported positive behavior and cultural change within the company and helped to fuel growth,” says Freyja.

Bluelab has also committed to becoming B-Corp certified within the next 3-5 years. This certification represents the highest standard of verified sustainability performance, and to get there is a long, yet worthwhile journey ahead. Bluelab understands the gravity of this commitment but will remain true to their purpose and commitment of “growing for a healthier world.” Bluelab’s commitment has attracted outside investors to help bolster their sustainability goals. In October of last year, Bluelab welcomed new shareholders Pioneer Capital as well as NZ Super Fund. These partnerships will help strengthen their commitment to their vision and purpose. Bluelab will now have access to more resources on their B-Corp journey and gain knowledge and experience from the other companies in their investor’s portfolio.

Notable Achievements Since 2020 Sustainability Commitment:

• April 2021 update |NZ HI-TECH AWARDS COMPANY OF THE YEAR FINALIST

• September 2021 update |BLUELAB AS FINALISTS IN THE NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AWARDS

• October 2021 update |WELCOMING PIONEER CAPITAL AND WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR VISION

• December 2021 update |BLUELAB FEATURES IN PRIORITY ONE'S SHOWCASING SUSTAINABILITY SERIES

• February 2022 update |BLUELAB WIN THE SUPREME AWARD IN THE NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AWARDS


Social and environmental benefit

In the short term Bluelab will do their part to reduce electronic waste, reduce carbon emissions through supply chain and sustainable growing practices, and improve the quality of our water by recycling water/nutrients in CEA (controlled environmental agriculture). “Growers will opt to work with products that match their sustainability preferences,” says Greg. “The leading transformational companies in the Asia Pacific region are heavily investing in innovation and sustainability. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to humanity, we must come together to help solve these problems,” follows Freyja. The goal for the short term is to do the right thing for the planet with the hopes that the Bluelab community will follow from their example. Companies that take a stance and do the right thing will be rewarded for their efforts.

In the long-term Greg sees controlled-environmental agriculture replacing traditional agriculture because it uses resources more efficiently, improves food security by shortening the distance from grow to consumption, and reduces externalities from large-scale traditional agriculture. Bluelab understands the road to sustainability is a long one but also realizes that small steps will make a big impact over time. The reality is “by 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet, putting huge strain on food production. Better controlled environment technology means more efficient hydroponic operations, meaning we can grow more food with less resources. Eventually, we will report on our carbon footprint,” says Freyja.


Interviews

Greg Gamarra, Head of Global eCommerce & Growth BI

Freyja Spaven, Content Manager

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Blue Lab

Blue Lab

Industrial Park, Tauranga, NZ

Business Website: https://bluelab.com/

Year Founded: 2000

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Blue Lab has been a leader in agricultural measurement tools for over 30 years. Their products are considered the industry standard and help many growers across the planet achieve successful yields. While they excel in consumer service and education, their main goal is to standardize the growing experience to minimize waste and maximize growth potential.