Duxton Vineyards set its sights on being an industry leader for sustainability when it began in 2015. Today, it is reaping benefits with a suite of trailblazing certifications, innovative tech and regenerative farming practices that are delivering tangible, positive impacts for the environment and thebusiness. This article first appeared in the December 2021 issue of Food and Drink Business.

Australian Agriculture contributes roughly 13 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions every year. For Duxton Vineyards, which produces around 6 per cent of Australia’s total annual grape supply, sustainability is a core mission. 

Managing director Wayne Ellis says a deep underlying passion for sustainability at board and senior management levels ensured it became a strategic driver for Duxton. 

“Being a business of our size in the agriculture space, it is both ethically and morally the right thing to do, to live and breathe sustainability. The overall goal to reduce our environmental footprint. This includes a focus on reducing carbon emissions, being more efficient with energy and water and reducing our waste to landfill,” Ellis says.

The fact Duxton is the largest viticulture company to achieve dual certification in the Freshcare Australian Wine Industry Standard of Sustainable Practice for both Viticulture and Winery is testament to that. 

Modelled on global best practices and aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these new certifications are essential to the company’s membership with Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA). For Ellis and the Duxton team, they are also recognition of the hard work and company commitment to sustainable practice and thought leadership. 

“We recognise that our vast land holdings pose a real opportunity, to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through revegetation to soil carbon sequestration. This is what’s driving us to look at offsetting our existing footprint, and hopefully go even a step further in the future,” Ellis says.    

“By sharing our sustainability journey, we aim to lead by example, showcasing the range of benefits a climate resilient program has for the environment and to improve the bottom line. It’s also about how we can attract and retain top viticulture talent, fuel innovation and grow our business long term,” he adds

Since it began six years ago, Duxton Vineyards has expanded to become a vertically integrated wine enterprise located in the Mildura and Sunraysia region. 

… we aim to lead by example, showcasing the range of benefits a climate resilient program has for the environment and to improve the bottom line.

The company continues taking its sustainability goals to new heights, and currently has a suite of innovative initiatives underway. Ellis says the aim is to raise the industry bar for sustainability. 

“We want to actively do something to better the climate; to make a positive impact as a grower and producer. And we can achieve this with a number of programs we currently have underway, including drawing on our significant land holdings to sequester carbon into the soils,” he says. 

Hydrogen powered

The company’s environmental manager Dylan Klingbiel manages all stages of the vineyards’ environmental strategies to ensure they remain on target with sustainability goals. 

Klingbiel has helped implement a trailblazing agreement between tech innovators, Lavo and Duxton Group on a pilot project for a hydrogen storage system across their vineyards and winery assets. 

Lavo is one of the first commercially ready hydrogen energy storage systems in the world that is designed for everyday use with scalable applications in development. The aim of this pilot is to determine how Lavo can work within and support the Duxton’s ecosystem vision for a net zero winery. (See our story on the Lavo project in the July issue.)

“Hydrogen-powered wine sounds like a thing of the future, but the technology is already available to Duxton Vineyards. This collaboration will help us achieve our net zero goal and more,” says Klingbiel. 

Following the pilot, both companies will collaborate to explore commercial and practical means of utilising Lavo’s hydrogen storage solutions to enhance and further applications across the wider Duxton Group’s agricultural asset portfolio. 

Saving species, enriching soils 

With seven vineyards across 2400 hectares in New South Wales, the Lavo collaboration marks not only another milestone by Duxton in promoting local tech innovation in their home state, but also inspires the industry to look into long-term sustainability investment as a key factor for viticulture success. 

The company is also working closely with the state government on conservation efforts with the Saving Our Species program. 

Duxton’s Euston site, situated in a small town on the banks of the Murray River in southern New South Wales, is recognised as a sanctuary and one of the last breeding grounds for the endangered regent parrot. 

“These collaborations and initiatives are the right thing to do for a business that draws on nature, but they are also the keys to the ongoing thriving success and growth of our business. 

“We see firsthand how extreme weather events – drought, hail, wind, fire and frost – at both ends of the temperature spectrum affect harvest yield and cause significant infrastructure damage and threaten viability,” says Klingbiel. 

Removing carbon emissions by sequestering carbon into the soils is doubly beneficial.  

“Healthy soils are critical for the vines to be resilient to our harsh climate. Our organic inputs include compost and biological stimulant microbes. We also use cover crops and minimise till farming,” Klingbiel explains.

Raising the bar

The benefits are not reaped by the vineyards alone. With more than 2000 hectares of prescribed native vegetation, the company has several regeneration initiatives already under way. 

It is working with Barkindji Maraura Elders Environment Team and the University of Adelaide to establish a native insectarium. 

Beekeepers are allowed to access the land, illustrating Duxton’s holistic sustainability focus, covering projects large and small. 

While some producers cite consumer choice as the key driver for their environmental commitments, sustainable practice has been part of Duxton Vineyards’ DNA since inception. 

“In all decision making and activities we encourage, consult and collaborate with our team around our approach and how to be efficient and optimise. It’s in our culture to keep raising the bar and lead by example for our local $24 billion wine industry.” 

For Ellis and the Duxton Vineyards team, it has never been more critical for businesses to step up and drivechange to stabilise, repair,and rehabilitate the environment

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