Natures Crops International receives B Corp certification

By Asia Sherman contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Simon Meakin, VP of Agronomy and GM for UK operations of Natures Crops International  © Natures Crops International
Photo: Simon Meakin, VP of Agronomy and GM for UK operations of Natures Crops International © Natures Crops International

Related tags: ahiflower oil, B Corp, regenerative agriculture, Social responsibility, omega 3

Natures Crops International, a manufacturer of specialty plant oils, has achieved B Corporation status in recognition of its commitment to high social and environmental performance.

“I hope that Nature Crops attaining B Corp certification really helps raise the bar for the omega-3 supply sector — where more and more consumers are already seeking solutions that won’t deplete ocean biodiversity,” ​Andrew Hebard, founder and CEO of Natures Crops International, told NutraIngredients-USA​.

The North Carolina-based company joins close to 2,200 B Corp businesses in the US and Canada, and over 5,700 globally, to pass B Lab’s rigorous risk review and impact assessment across governance, workers, community, environment and customers categories.

The certification extends to Natures Crops International’s growing operations in the United Kingdom and manufacturing facilities on Prince Edward Island in Canada. 

Ahiflower: An alternative to fish oil

Hebard explained that the Natures Crops flagship product Ahiflower – developed as a plant-derived alternative to fish oil – is built on “a regenerative omega-3 supply model”​ as opposed to the typical “extractive and depletive”​ wild harvesting of marine omegas.

“Honestly, I struggle with the concept of any form of wild animal or plant resource extraction being truly sustainable,” ​he said.

“These models are certainly not regenerative. I know that’s a controversial statement, but we used to think the North American bison and carrier pigeons were inexhaustible resources.”

Ahiflower’s omega content differs from fish oil in that it is a rich source of the stearidonic acid (SDA) omega-3, which is converted into the more well-known eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids harvested from marine sources. The multi omega also contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 usually found in evening primrose and borage seed oils.

“Recent science is upending much of what many industry stakeholders and health care professionals have been told about omega fatty acid metabolism and their sources,”​ the company sets forth in its 2021 white paper. 

“Humans have well understood and genetically determined metabolic pathways for converting plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intakes from essential ALA and LA – or their elongated metabolites SDA and GLA – to longer chain fatty acids.” 

Regeneratively grown in the UK

A proprietary cultivar derived from a weed species (Buglossoides arvensis​) native to the English countryside, Ahiflower is cultivated exclusively in the United Kingdom by the Ahiflower Growers Club. The group of independent farmers adhere to Natures Crops strict management protocols for sustainability and identity preservation.

“Sharing of crop production information and data so that growers can make better agronomic decisions is a key philosophy for us and our Ahiflower Growers Club members,”​ Hebard said.

“Our Agronomy team (Simon Meakin, VP Agronomy and Jake Wild, Specialty Crop Agronomist) do an excellent job of working directly with growers and helping them improve yields, crop quality and soil health.”​ 

Regenerative practices revolve around optimizing water management, enhancing biodiversity, capturing carbon by minimizing soil disturbance, increasing pollinators, preventing soil erosion and minimizing chemicals. Hebard adds that the growers’ club is generating yields of 1,400 pounds per acre, which “is pretty terrific compared to other specialty crops."​ 

Traceable from “soil to oil”

To ensure sustainability claims, the company introduced its own Crop Assured 365 seal that guarantees “soil to oil” ​traceability, complete crop production oversight and supply chain stewardship. The closed loop production system links traceability back to the farm, full product records, authenticity, no co-mingling and a safe, uninterrupted supply-chain. 

“There’s no seepage into or out of our supply chain,”​ Hebard said. “We breed our own varieties, we only provide planting seed to growers that we partner with, and we purchase 100% of the crops they produce. All the seed crushing and oil refining are done at our Canadian facility under a small, fresh-pressed batch system.” 

Natures Crops also produces Meadowfoam and Abyssinian oilseed, regeneratively grown in the US and used in the personal care industry, under the same fully closed loop system for complete traceability and quality control. 

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