When Agribusiness Gives You Lemon Pulp, Make Biofuel

In Argentina, one of the world's biggest citrus producers is recycling its farming waste as fuel and fertilizers.

Picking lemons at Argentina's Citrusvil farm
Picking lemons at Argentina's Citrusvil farm
Juan I. Martínez Dodda

BUENOS AIRES — Citrusvil, one of the world's biggest lemon exporting firms, is a top investor in state-of-the-art techniques to eliminate waste, curb pollution and recycle farming byproducts. The Argentine firm, which produces about one-third of all lemon juice concentrate sold worldwide, turns fruit remains and processing waste into fertilizer and enough biogas to partly fuel one of its two processing plants.

The firm farms 23 estates, totaling more than 30 square miles, and turns part of its 330,000 tons of fresh fruit into products like lemon essence oil, juice concentrate and dry peel. An outstanding feature of its activities is that it avoids pouring effluents into the environment, thanks to recycling, while its biogas provides 35% of the fuel needed by one of two processing plants.

The Coca-Cola company reportedly buys 60% of Argentina"s concentrated orange juice production, and 30% of its lemon and grapefruit juice concentrate (Ledesma is another local supplier), which means processing 80,000 tons of oranges, 15,000 tons of grapefruits and 170,000 tons of lemons.

"We were pioneers at the worldwide level"

Citrusvil's Head of Business Operations Hernán Ruggiero explains that the state-of-the-art process sends all pulp and waste into a biodigester where yeasts consume the solid material and turn it into carbon dioxide and methane. "This not only allows us to produce biogas but the waste waters, the remaining liquid, is used to irrigate 500 hectares of lemon plantations," Ruggiero explains.

The farm's 10,000 cubic meters of daily waste become gas and compost after passing through the biodigester. "We were pioneers at the worldwide level in using this technique based on the lemon industry, and also in being zero effluent producing biogas," says Ruggiero.

Previously Citrusvil treated its effluents aerobically, in artificial lakes. To create its biodigester, which treats wastage more efficiently and allows a fuel byproduct, it worked with Biotec, a Belgian firm specializing in the treatment of agro-industrial effluents. Each ton of processed fruit produces 16 cubic meters of biogas. Today, Citrusvil operates three biodigesters and saves itself more than $550,000's on its natural gas bill annually.

At the Citrusvil farm — Photo: GRUPO LUCCI

Argentina is the world's principal producer of yellow lemons (80% of which are produced in the northeastern Tucumán province), and a leading exporter to northern hemisphere countries, mainly in Europe. It effectively shares world markets with its main competitor, South Africa.

Citrusvil has four main products: fresh lemons, lemon essential oil (used in fizzy drinks, sweets or perfume), lemon juice concentrate and dry peel, which are sold in 100 countries.

These are four businesses, says Ruggiero, which are "very different, and all have high added value. Contrary to what people think, the product with most added value is fresh fruit where the workforce represents 50% of the cost. Think of a fruit that is going straight to the consumer and needs to be picked carefully, which adds very considerably to value per unit."

Citrusvil emerged in 1970 as part of an existing firm Viluco, which was established in 1962 in Tucumán. Its Italian founder, Vicente Lucci, had arrived practically penniless in Argentina. Today his sons, Daniel and Pablo Lucci, run an expanded firm with an annual turnover of $300 million. Other activities include grinding soy for Hi-Pro flour, which is used to feed animals, biodiesel production and some livestock farming.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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