Quinta da Azenha is located on the country’s south-west Atlantic coastline and is one of Vitacress Portugal SA’s flagship farms. It covers around 130 hectares of light, sandy soils and is an excellent example of how baby leaf and iceberg lettuce can be grown alongside a commitment to biodiversity and developing species-rich habitats.
A key focus of the farm is optimizing the use of inputs and utilizing techniques and natural processes to control pests and diseases, while maintaining high product safety and quality.
The farm operates under a number of certification programs:
- GLOBALG.A.P. Certification – ensures high standards of food quality and safety, and helps to generate customer confidence and increase market value. Also covers environmental protection and worker welfare.
- Conservation Grade or Fair to Nature – a scientifically and independently validated protocol designed to focus on locally important species. It helps to ensure appropriate habitats are developed, demonstrating the farm’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
- Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) – this certification promotes integrated farm management practices and focuses on environmental care.
Staff at the farm earn 14% more than the national minimum wage, and employees who have served 12 months or more qualify for an additional monthly €100 premium. All permanent staff receive free life and health insurance and the company provides access to subsidized doctors and surgeries.
Key staff are also provided with training to gain recognized industry qualifications, including the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS) for nutrient management and the British Agrochemical Standards Inspection Scheme (BASIS) for agrochemical approval and use.
The farm distributes any excess produce to local people in need and supports workshops on healthy eating for the local community.
The farm operates a work experience program for local students and an apprenticeship scheme.
The farm’s soil fertility strategy uses fast-growing crops such as sorghum, legumes and brassicas as green manures. As they grow, they capture available soil nutrients and nitrogen from the atmosphere, and are then chopped and incorporated into the soil to provide additional organic matter.
Enviroscan Soil Moisture Meters are used to provide accurate data to help deliver effective irrigation and optimize water use.
Water applied via a sprinkler system, along with trees and mesh windbreaks, helps to reduce wind-blown soil erosion and sand blast, which can damage crops.
The farm has its own Biodiversity Action Plan, and 10% of the farm has been dedicated to habitat enhancement, including pollen-rich grasslands and a wetland area.
Field margins have been introduced as biodiversity hotspots, which help to draw birds and insects away from crops.
Reducing inputs by implementing natural control strategies is a key focus of the farm. These include caliente mustard, which, when cut and chopped, produces a naturally occurring bio-fumigant gas and helps with the suppression of various soil-borne diseases and pests.
The farm also utilizes soil solarization, which uses the warmth from the sun to heat the soil and kill soil-borne pathogens and weed seeds.
The farm uses the highest resistant cultivars to reduce the occurrence and severity of some diseases. This strategy delivered a 37% reduction in agrochemical use per 1,000kg of crops in its benchmark year.
Learn more about Jason de Sain’s story
Explore the case study, where you’ll find extra details on how the farm has performed against the program’s good practice standards and criteria, what external research reveals about the producer's actions and how improved sustainability benefits them.
“Being a part of Flagship Farmers gives Vitacress and McDonald’s the opportunity to be closer to our customers, not least when promoting a common vision on sustainable farming and more specifically biodiversity. This is a good news story which best serves this country and community while reassuring consumers that we choose to farm with everyone’s interest in mind, not least for now and for the future come.”