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Bosch’s contributions along the food chain
Each year, approximately 4 billion metric tons of food are produced worldwide. But how much do people actually consume? Answer: just two-thirds of it. The resulting cost to the economy and the environment is huge.
To mark the UN’s World Food Day on October 16, this blog article takes a look at some areas in which Bosch is helping to improve sustainability in food production, transport, storage, and consumption.
The link between a technological company and agriculture might not be very obvious. But in fact, Bosch and agriculture go back a long way.
For Robert Bosch himself, the subject was one that occupied a lot of his spare time. After the first world war, he set up the Bosch Farm: “Back then, it seemed to me a great feat to transform a mere bog into a land of milk and honey,” he said. His plan was to turn a tract of poor land in Upper Bavaria into a model farming estate. Using state-of-the-art technology to produce high-quality products that could be sold in the region, the project got under way with the help of special machines, and the newly developed process of silage making was introduced. Robert Bosch also made use of what we would now call eco-friendly methods in creating an environment that would attract hosts of birds, thus providing a natural means of pest control. However, the Bosch Farm remained a subsidized operation.
A motorized plow for tilling the fields at the Bosch Farm, 1927.
From the farm to hydraulics, from hydraulics to robotics
Some ten years after the death of its founder in 1942, the company ventured into the new territory of equipment for agricultural machinery. In the early 1950s, the manual labor involved in German agriculture, from sowing to harvest, prompted efforts to come up with clever technological aids that would simplify work in the fields. The first such aid was a hydraulic lift which used the tractor’s engine to lift and lower the plow.
Nowadays, however, it is no longer hydraulics that form the link between Bosch and agriculture, but robotics, sensor technology, and connectivity. For example, the Bosch sensors that have become common in automobiles and smartphones can also be used in asparagus fields to record weather conditions. This information can be transmitted to an app to determine the right time for harvesting, watering, or covering the crop – increasing productivity and avoiding waste.
Bosch has also joined forces with scientific partners to develop a multifunctional agricultural robot platform that can be fitted with different components to perform a variety of tasks. It uses findings from robotics, sensor technology, and connectivity.
BoniRob is a multi-purpose robotic platform for applications in agriculture.
The “BoniRob” conducts not only soil and plant analyses, but also eliminates weeds. The robot can check the condition of individual plants every day. In plant cultivation and breeding, it can also provide completely new insights into how environmental conditions and treatment methods affect plant growth and quality.
Connected technology for aquaculture
Another example of Bosch technology used in sustainable agriculture is provided by an Australian start-up called “The Yield.” This new agri-tech company uses sensors, data management, and user-friendly apps to create novel tools for agriculture and aquaculture – e.g. in oyster farming. As a partner and investor, Bosch manages the data and supplies the technology for collecting and recording it.
Oyster farming in Australia.
Oysters are filter feeders. When it rains, they accumulate contaminants from agricultural run-off. As this is a potential health risk, oyster harvests are often at risk of being stopped by industry regulators. Where oyster farmers previously relied on estimates or prior experience, the Bosch solution has now fundamentally changed oyster farming: The ability to collect and report localized data has reduced closures in the Tasmanian oyster industry by up to 30 percent, and helped to increase productivity and sustainability. Researchers are also using the data to improve the management of diseases such as Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS). For more information, visit www.theyield.com.
Next step: clean shelf, clean environment
When buying sugar or flour, it’s not unusual to find traces of these products in the shopping bag or on the kitchen counter. This is not only a nuisance to the customer, but also a source of waste. To put an end to this, Bosch has recently presented a sustainable innovation: the world’s first sealed paper packaging solution. In collaboration with the Swedish paper specialist BillerudKorsnäs, Bosch Packaging Technology has come up with dust-tight packaging for dry products such as sugar, grains, flour, or powders. Using sustainable mono-material paper, the packaging contains no additional polymers.
The new sustainable packaging is dust-tight, enhancing product protection and keeping supermarket and kitchen shelves clean. It keeps dust and insects out, and prevents spillage along the entire supply chain. In addition, the mechanical properties of the paper reduce environmental impact.
Bosch solutions for transport: smart containers
A significant portion of global food production is spoiled before it reaches the consumer; the largest loss occurs during transportation. What to do about it?
In collaboration with Dole, the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, Bosch has carried out three smart container tests focusing on the monitoring and subsequent ripening of bananas. The packing boxes are fitted with wireless sensors. Once the pallets have been loaded into the smart container, remote monitoring commences.
During sea transport, an interface between an internal sensor network and external communication keeps a constant watch on the quality of the bananas. For example, as soon as the temperature changes, a remote intervention is made and an alert is sent. The emergency signal is sent to the monitoring center, and the customer (in this case, Dole) can be directly informed.
Sensors in packing boxes monitor conditions and allow to adjust them in time if necessary.
In smart containers, loss due to perishing is only 20 percent. The advantages are that the quality of goods is constantly monitored and consequently improved.
Cook with care – sustainability in Bosch cafeterias
According to recent statistics, an astonishing amount of food is wasted. The average U.S. American, for example, throws away 507 dollars’ worth of food every year. This waste is even more acute in canteens and other large dining facilities that process huge amounts of food.
Kevin Clauss works as a cook at the Bosch plant in Schwieberdingen, Germany.
In Bosch cafeterias worldwide, the people in charge are sensitive to this issue and doing their best to avoid food waste. “We try to plan very carefully what we buy and use”, says Marc Seidel, who is responsible for the cafeteria in Schwieberdingen, Germany.
While hygienic considerations mean that fresh products such as lettuce still have to be thrown away, other food that has been cooked but not served is usually cooled and reused. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt are bought in smaller quantities and used at shorter notice, which helps to reduce food waste.
From the field to the plate: Bosch is doing its best to increase productivity and ensure sustainability in the field of agriculture, food transport, storage – and consumption.
International committee develops ISO environmental standards further
For ten days, Seoul was the environmental management capital of the world. At the beginning of September, the South Korean metropolis hosted the annual ISO/TC 207 Technical Committee meeting. The international group of experts aims to create global environmental management standards for organizations. To this end, 250 delegates, experts, representatives of partner organizations, and observers from 40 countries travelled to Asia for the committee’s 23rd plenary meeting. Nine participants from Germany attended the event to represent their national interests in sub-committees and working groups. Bosch was among them, and played an active role.
L.T.R. Christoph Töpfer (UBA), Dr. Joachim Nibbe (Koordinierungsbüro Normungsarbeit der Umweltverbände Berlin), Bernhard Schwager, Martina Prox (IFU Hamburg), Reiner Hager (DIN Berlin), Volker Gehr (Steinbeis Glückstadt) and Peter Saling (BASF)
The event focused on the further development of the ISO 14000fff series of environmental norms. The norm provides organizations around the world with guidelines on how to implement environmental management systems; carry out audits, inspections, and environmental performance assessments; and perform eco-labeling processes.
ISO 14001 – the most well known norm – was revised in 2015. Since then, ISO 14004 has also been introduced. It serves as a guide on the principles, systems, and methods of environmental management. In the future, it will help organizations make environmental protection an integral part of all their processes more easily. Around the world, some 300,000 organizations have already received ISO 14001 certification. Of these, 8,000 are in Germany. Environmental management systems have been introduced at all Bosch locations. Some 80 percent of locations have received external certification, and the remaining locations are set to follow.
In order to promote the introduction of environmental management systems at small and medium-sized companies, the technical committee also began revising the ISO 14005 norm, which includes instructions on the gradual introduction of an environmental management system. In the future, the norm will be simpler and more flexible. What is more, the current version will make it possible for organizations to integrate environmental management in their core business. The changes are scheduled to be implemented by the fall of 2018.
For the first time, the experts addressed the topic of the monetary assessment of environmental issues. To this end, the ISO 14007 and 14008 standards will specify suitable processes in the future. The new focus aims to make environmental concerns a more important part of decision-making processes in politics and business. Germany will play in active role in the development of the new norm.
An interview of the "Forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften" magazine with Bernhard Schwager on the ISO standards can be found here.
More information on environmental management at Bosch can be found here.
Bosch has encouraged 2,265 associates to carpool through the “flinc” digital ride-sharing network
In Germany, about 20 million people drive to work by car every day. On average, these commuters drive 8,000 kilometers a year on their trips to and from their jobs. All of this road travel adds up to 160 billion kilometers a year – which amounts to four million trips around the equator. This not only leads to high fuel costs. People who regularly drive to work also generate high levels of CO2.
Source: flinc (available only in German)
Sharing rides is one way for drivers to reduce the environmental impact and the fuel costs associated with commuting. To make it easier for Bosch associates to do this, last year the company created the “Bosch Carpooling Network” in cooperation with the “flinc” digital ride-sharing service. The goal is to provide an easy way for commuters to connect with each other, thereby reducing their respective carbon footprints. Using an app, interested commuters can sign up with the “Bosch Carpooling Network” to find passengers or a ride. The app takes into account both trips to and from work, and trips to run errands along the way. Timetables for shuttle buses serving Bosch plants and offices are also integrated into the app, as are public transportation schedules. The real-time software for the app was developed especially with short distances and flexible departure and arrival times in mind. The service is not only suitable for commuters, but also for business travel, like driving to meetings or for travel between different sites. This leads to direct savings for the company.
About a year after the launch of the Bosch network, the results are quite encouraging: initially encompassing only associates at the Bosch plants and offices in Feuerbach, Schwieberdingen, Homburg (Saar), Schweinfurt, and Blaichach-Immenstadt, the network has already been used by 2,265 associates. Bosch plans to expand the digital network to other locations, so that the CO2 emissions generated by commuters can be steadily reduced.
More information on the Bosch Carpooling Network can be found here (available only in German).
An active Bosch gas pedal helps make driving more fuel efficient
The driver’s foot is responsible for one-quarter of fuel consumption. In the past, eco-driving lessons were about the only thing that could be done about this rule of thumb. Now, however, the Bosch active gas pedal provides drivers with extra help. In the form of tapping, vibration, or resistance, it gives drivers haptic signals to let them know they need to change their driving behavior. This innovation can reduce fuel consumption by up to seven percent, which in turn has a positive effect on CO2 emissions. But that’s not all: the active gas pedal can also be connected with other vehicle functions. This not only makes driving more efficient, but also safer.
For instance, with tapping, the active gas pedal lets drivers know when they are driving too fast. In combination with the navigation system or a camera, it also helps drivers detect hazards in potentially dangerous situations. It provides a warning, for example, when the vehicle is driving into a bend too fast. By drawing on online data, the active gas pedal also issues warnings in the event of wrong-way drivers, traffic jams, cross traffic at intersections, or other hazards along the planned route. Combined with the collision warning system, it warns drivers when they should stop accelerating.
In addition to all this, drivers of manual vehicles now receive a haptic signal that tells them when they’ve shifted into the ideal gear. At present, the signal appears as a small arrow on the vehicle’s display. “The pedal shows the point at which acceleration and fuel efficiency are ideal,” says Stefan Seiberth, President of Gasoline Systems. The fuel saving potential of hybrid vehicles is especially high: whenever the vehicle switches from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor and back again, the system issues a signal. Drivers can then adapt their driving behavior accordingly and reduce fuel consumption even further.
More information on the active gas pedal can be found here.
The global provider of technology and services takes a multifaceted approach to climate protection.
On the road to COP21, there has been a great deal of debate about the private sector’s roles and responsibilities in the context of climate change. Questions about how industry can reduce its carbon footprint have been discussed extensively. In response, companies have introduced a broad range of measures to curb their energy consumption and reduce their CO2 emissions.
Bosch has long made conserving resources and protecting the environment a priority in all of its fields of business. At present, around 50 percent of the company’s R&D budget is spent on eco-friendly products, and about a third of Bosch sales are generated with such products. This clearly demonstrates that a sustainable approach to doing business pays off.
However, in order to reduce their carbon footprint in a lasting manner and make a meaningful contribution to protecting the climate, global industrial companies must do much more than focus on energy-efficient products. They must also assess their production practices and reduce the energy consumption and emissions of their locations around the world. At Bosch, a broad range of measures has been taken to reduce the company’s use of energy and raw materials, and to ensure that its locations are energy efficient. “We believe that technology companies have a responsibility. Not only can our products and services help protect the climate, we can also use innovative technologies to make our own activities more sustainable. That’s precisely what Bosch is doing,” says Guy Maugis, President of Bosch France.
Bosch’s recently opened global center for research and advance engineering is perhaps the most prominent example of the company’s commitment to using innovative, eco-friendly building technologies. Located in Renningen close to Stuttgart, the campus buildings feature planted roofs that collect rainwater for use during dry spells. By absorbing sunlight, the roof plants and vegetation also help keep indoor climate stable, thus reducing the need for air conditioning. In addition to this, the central building’s windows are triple glazed, and its facade is fitted with a sunscreen that automatically detects strong sunshine. This combination of technologies saves 20 to 30 percent of the energy that would otherwise be needed to keep the building cool. What is more, the solar panels on the roofs of buildings across the campus generate the as much power as 100 families consume in one year. In total, these measures reduce annual CO2 emissions by 200 tons.
Beyond its global research headquarters, Bosch has also introduced measures to improve the energy efficiency of its production processes around the world. At its Packaging Technology site in Beringen, Switzerland, for instance, the company saves 180,000 liters of heating oil and 480 tons of CO2 each year. It achieves this by heating its modern building with groundwater drawn from a basin that is 40 meters underground. This system can also be used to cool the building in summer. The building meets the requirements of the Swiss Minergie Standard, a label that promotes energy-optimized building practices.
The Bosch Thermotechnology site in Worcester, U.K. is another example of how resources can be conserved and emissions reduced with the targeted use of technology. A new water recycling system at the site has made production more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. Thanks to this system, cooling water from the production facility can be reused. Not only does this save 71 million liters of water each year, it also prevents 12 tons of CO2.
In Mellansel, Sweden, Bosch operates one of the most flexible and eco-friendly paint shops in the European mechanical engineering sector. Among other things, the company coats heavy-duty hydraulic motors that will be used in salt water with anti-corrosive paints. In so doing, the mixture of water and color pigments is closely monitored, as this enables the recovery of excess heat. As a result of this approach, the paint shop’s energy consumption has decreased by 75 percent. Moreover, the use of water-based paint has reduced the need for solvents by 80 percent.
Since 2007 Bosch has managed to reduce its CO2 emissions relative to value-added by over 20 percent. Furthermore, between 2007 and 2014, the company saved around 530 million euros in energy costs through in-house measures. This is perhaps the best proof that efforts to promote sustainability make sound economic sense. Indeed, protecting the climate can be a major source of business opportunity.