SAB says that the value of Project Popeye lies in the water and nutrient requirements of the crops, which are fully provided for by the wastewater generated in the brewing process — with no requirement for additional water or fertilisers.

The Spinach beds only use roughly 10% of the water flowing through it, with 90% still available for reuse and this 'polishing' of the water allows the brewery to recover more water through its water recycling plant, says SAB.

The losses from production normally become a waste management liability for a business and, all too frequently, society or the receiving environment. In SAB's approach, these nutrients can be transformed into a new agricultural product. This turns a potential loss into a sustainable business with a literally green product.

"This is the triple helix at its best. SAB is leading the way for the sustainable use of our limited water resources, and creating significant and tangible social benefits through the incorporation of the circular economy and water energy and food nexus principles," Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of WRC.

SAB has additionally pledged to offer a capital investment to kick-start the agricultural ventures linked to Project Popeye, together with local Business TaylorMade Water Solutions (TMWS).

SAB will be supporting the operation of TMWS for the first 12 months through the construction and commercial establishment phase, and has offered additional technical and business coaching with the assistance of its Supplier Development Team.

"What began as a project to treat our water has become so much more," says Josh Hammann, director of agricultural development at SAB. "This is not only the first fully-green biological treatment system for a brewery in Africa; it is a platform for the continuation of research and development at Rhodes University and a source of job creation worth R2-million of downstream value per year."

"What we are demonstrating is the pairing of complementary processes and water users in order to maximise the local benefit of water. With this approach, we can use the water to make beer, grow crops and then reuse what remains in our recycling plant for cleaning and utility applications," adds Hammann.

"These great strides fall perfectly in line with our greater corporate sustainability goals. It's easy to say we are committed, but in Project Popeye, we have proven our commitment to the environment and our local communities, as we all seek to build a stronger and more sustainable South Africa," concludes Hammann. 

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