CARLISLE, Pa. – The GIANT Co. on Monday unveiled a seven-acre field at its corporate headquarters planted with wildflower seeds and other native plants to establish a habitat for pollinators — bees, birds and a variety of small critters.
The opening was timed to the celebration of National Pollinator Week, which draws attention to the role of bees and other pollinator populations in sustaining the nation’s agricultural output.
“From almonds to zucchini and countless fruits, vegetables and nuts in between, nearly one-third of our food supply depends on pollinators, making bees an essential part of our food supply chain and ecosystem,” said GIANT president Nicholas Bertram. “A pollinator field provides us with a unique opportunity to educate our team members, customers and the community about the crucial role bees play in getting food onto their family’s table. For The GIANT Company, healing the planet starts at home, so creating a pollinator habitat at our headquarters is a natural first step as we work to address the declining bee population.”
In a press release, the retailer noted that while honeybees annually pollinate $15 billion worth of food crops in the United States, their role is jeopardized by a population decline that has been going on for more than three decades.
Colony collapse disorder has been blamed for the disappearance of millions of bees which have left their hives in search of pollen or nectar and somehow never returned. A more recent threat comes from Asian giant hornets, which massacres honeybees in their hives.
GIANT cited data from the non-profit Bee Informed Partnership suggesting that beekeepers across the United States lost 40.7% of their honeybee colonies from in the 12 months to April 2019.
“The GIANT Company has always been an incredible partner to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, so it’s no surprise that they’ve extended that partnership from farmers to bees,” said Cheryl Cook, deputy secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. “One out of every third bite we eat is thanks to pollinators. It’s important that we all take steps to protect our vital workforce of pollinators; their value to agriculture is nearly impossible to estimate, but we see it in the grocery store and on our plate every day.”
Researchers elsewhere have been exploring the use of robotic pollinators, including drones, to assist farmers. Walmart in 2018 applied for a patent for an autonomous vehicle that would pollinate crops.
Also on Monday, GIANT announced a new partnership with Planet Bee Foundation, a non-profit based in San Francisco focused on driving awareness for pollinators while creating environmental stewards of all ages. GIANT said it was contributing $50,000 to the foundation.
“A single worker bee can accomplish a great deal, but only a hive that works together can create something amazing,” said Debra Tomaszewski, the foundation’s co-founder and executive director. “Our world needs collaboration, partnership and synergy more than ever if we’re going to make a difference in creating sustainable food systems.
Planet Bee Foundation built the beehives for GIANT’s new solar field and will tend to the health of the colonies as the bees provide their essential pollinator services to the local ecosystem. The foundation is also helping GIANT develop educational signs that will be installed along the on-campus walking path to drive awareness about the importance of bees to the grocery and agricultural supply chains.
GIANT also said it is the first grocery retailer and first Pennsylvania participant in the InSPIRE study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in which scientist’s measure and track the performance of the pollinator-friendly ground cover for applications to future solar energy projects.
In addition to the benefits of the plants, the new solar array coupled with the one currently installed on the roof of GIANT’s headquarters will reduce 4.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide in the environment and generate enough power for the entire building, according to the company.
“Forward-looking partners like The GIANT Company see the promise in solar development that can simultaneously provide important benefits to agriculture,” said Jordan Macknick, principal investigator of the InSPIRE study. “The robust data we collect from InSPIRE partner sites across more than 20 states will help inform state and national activities and energy development approaches, improving the compatibility of solar with ecosystems and agriculture.”