Name VAISA Agricultura SA
GGN 4049928640239 Website http://www.vitacress.pt/
Country Portugal

Profile

First established back in 1982, VAISA Agricultura Intensiva SA is probably the single largest watercress production site on mainland Europe producing all year round, and now supplying some 1000 tons of raw materials off 19 ha.
VAISA remains uniquely positioned next door to the Prime Real Estate & Golfing Resorts of Quinta do Lago and the natural beauty of Parque Natural do Ria Formosa in the Algarve.

VAISA’s application for the G.A.P. Awards 2016 rests with its sustainable water management plan for Watercress production in Southern Europe. This niche, ancient, but versatile superfood that is watercress enters markets in Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, Holland & Germany for further processing mainly as the ready-to-eat category for salads.

 

Achievements

In 2009, Vitacress teamed up with independent hydrogeological consultancy Hidrointel, to better understand the impact watercress production was having on the Campina de Faro Aquifer System, having heard through the Algarve Water Basin Region Administration (ARH- Algarve), that successive lowering of groundwater levels in the region, indicated a systematic overexploitation situation that could result in ground water degradation by sea water intrusion into the aquifer.
By 2012, objectives were agreed with ARH-Algrave which called for a stronger sustainable outlook for the future of watercress production in an area especially if competing for the same resources for high end luxury living and sporting activities

The objectives include:

  1. Reducing borehole extraction levels by 30% by 2014.
  2. Promoting water recycling whilst ensuring the microbiological quality of the waters used meet with food safety microbiological criteria.
  3. Preventing any loss of water in an uncontrolled way.
  4. The treatment of waters and re assurance of discharged water quality.
  5. Monitoring and reporting of all extractions and discharges - volumes and water quality.

VASIA has invested in its current water management plan whereby:

  1. Two Filtration & UV Plants at Gondra and Ludo have been installed to treat flows of 190 & 200m3 of water per hour prior to its re-introduction to watercress beds. This means that borehole extraction rates have been reduced whereby Year to Date, we only extract 40% of our total requirements, whilst close to 60% is recycled.
  2. As of October 2016, circa 70% of all watercress production at VAISA will be served through filtered and UV treated waters. This means that any one m3 of water in our water recirculation systems is filtered and UV treated every 1.7 days, thereby ensuring that water as a potential vehicle for food pathogens is kept in check.
  3. A 3rd treatment plant to receive silted bed wash waters which otherwise would have gone to discharge is now being treated with flocculants & coagulants to remove silt, followed by UV. That treated water re-enters the watercress production cycle and this means that we treat 1500 m3/h of water p.a. (Gondra Platform) which then goes back into the system which would otherwise have gone to discharge.
  4. Each platform and water flow system has been assessed, modified and closed, to ensure better monitoring and control of discharge waters which means we can now accurately monitor the quality and quantity of water discharged from all our watercress platforms. Also we share this data with ARH Algarve on a regular basis promoting strong working partnerships in the area.
  5. The creation of a wetland using native plants was constructed at Ludo site, which means that the natural flora and wetland created compliments that of the Parque Natural do Ria Formosa given that part of our farm sits within the park boundary.

This same wetland eventually receives silted bed wash waters from both bed cleaning and gravel washing operations which means:

  1. We recycle 100% of bed gravel eliminating any future needs for this substrate.
  2. We are uniquely positioned to demonstrate how traditional watercress production methods have been overhauled and modified to deliver a sustainable program that addresses the environmental, ethical and economic foundation of our future success.

GLOBALG.A.P. has shed a spotlight we needed and helped bring together various stakeholders to forge better working relations which today can only be a good thing for the local and international trading relations.