Red Sun Farms Sustainability Case Study

Transforming Agriculture with Innovative Packaging Solutions

Plastic packaging remains a hot topic around the world, but Red Sun Farms is doing more than simply contributing to the conversation. The company is putting words into action, utilizing packaging technologies to make consumption and production more sustainable.

Red Sun Farms, founded in 2008, is a hydroponic greenhouse farm that cultivates cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. It was founded to fulfill increased retailer demand for fresh produce year round. Since its formation, the company has remained dedicated to delivering fruits and vegetables with exceptional quality, shelf life and flavor any season of the year. It has greenhouse farms in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico with distribution centers throughout North America.


UN Goals:
3 Good Health and Well-Being
8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
12 Responsible Consumption and Production
17 Partnerships for the Goals



The company’s value proposition is “Seed to Plate,” meaning it is involved in choosing and propagating seeds, growing, greenhouse operations and management, harvesting, packaging and distribution. Red Sun Farms’ vertically integrated business model was designed to address food safety, quality, taste and supply. And while the acreage of its greenhouses has increased, the company remains devoted to distributing a high quality and flavorful supply of produce all year long. With more locations — quality, freshness, flavor and food safety are better guaranteed and the demand for fresh produce is more easily met.

Red Sun Farms has been recognized as an industry leader in corporate culture and product standards, receiving numerous awards and certifications. It has been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for 11 consecutive years, nominated as one of the Top 5 Tomato Growers in the World by Tomato Inspiration Event in 2014 and awarded Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures in 2017.

The challenge: The cost of plastic

While plastic packaging has its place in the produce industry and can even be considered sustainable with regard to mitigating food waste and food loss, the production of plastic and how it is discarded after a single, short-term use are factors that present environmental challenges, with effects that are detrimental to wildlife and the planet. Given this, it is becoming increasingly important that the industry finds ways to moderate its impacts and the environmental threats it poses.

Most virgin (new) plastic is made from fossil fuels, crude oil or natural gas, extracted from land and the seabed. These fossil fuels are harmful to the environment, resulting in the destruction of essential ecosystems and habitats. Additionally, the manufacturing and refining process of these plastics release greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons, which are major contributors to global warming and climate change.

Plastic use began in the 1950s and tripled in production between the 1970s and the 1990s. The early 2000s saw a rise of more plastic waste generated in one decade than in the previous 40 years. Currently, 400 million tons of plastic waste is generated each year of which 12 million tons finds its way into waterways and, eventually, the ocean.

Because plastics are extremely durable, it can take centuries to decompose, if at all. While this durability is advantageous for use, it becomes an impediment to the environment once discarded, causing major disruption. When it breaks down, plastic waste degrades into microplastics—tiny pervasive particles that have been discovered in soil, air, water and even the human body.

As plastic production continues to grow, the planet is suffering the consequences that, if not addressed, may become irreversible.

The solution: Collaboration and development

Red Sun Farms transitioned to more sustainable packaging materials, including cardboard and paperboard, to minimize the reliance on plastic. This change was in response to consumer concerns about single-use plastic waste and its impact on the environment.

Top view and side view of two packages of Red Sun Farms grape tomatoesThe company has made significant strides to reduce plastic usage in its packaging, beginning the transition with commercial technologies that were already available: fiber punnets, washable labels, and conversion to clear PET materials with higher PCR levels. It worked with new suppliers and the existing supply base to identify available commercial technologies.

The company also incorporated biodegradable and recyclable packaging materials into their product packaging. These materials are designed to break down naturally, reducing the environmental burden associated with traditional plastics. By making the packaging materials recyclable, it encourages responsible disposal and recycling by consumers.

After development, the packaging was tested for quality, shelf-life and machinability performance, and prototypes were presented to its retail partners at industry events to open conversations around new technologies.

Red Sun Farms has invested in innovative packaging design that reduces waste and enhances the shelf life of their products. For example, their packaging often includes features like resealable zippers, which help keep products fresh and reduce food waste. These design elements add value to the consumer while contributing to sustainability goals.

The company uses clear and informative labeling on their packaging to inform consumers about their sustainability practices and certifications. This transparency helps consumers make informed choices and understand the company's commitment to environmentally responsible agriculture.

Red Sun Farms also considers the sustainability of the raw materials used in their packaging. They strive to source materials from responsibly managed forests and ensure that the production and transportation of packaging materials have minimal environmental impacts.

View looking up at the roof of a Red Sun Farms greenhouse.Red Sun Farms actively collaborates with sustainability organizations and holds certifications verifying their packaging practices. These partnerships and certifications help reinforce their commitment to sustainable packaging and provide credibility to their efforts. According to Leona Neill, Director of Marketing and Packaging, “We need to work together to identify the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions for growers, consumers, and municipalities.”

The company actively engages with consumers to promote sustainability and often use their packaging as a platform to educate and raise awareness about environmental issues and the importance of responsible consumption. By providing packaging that helps extend the shelf life of their products, Red Sun Farms also indirectly contributes to reducing food waste. Longer-lasting, fresher produce is less likely to be discarded, which aligns with broader sustainability goals.

The takeaway: Creating a sustainable future

Red Sun Farms' approach to sustainable packaging is an excellent example of a company responding to consumer demand for eco-friendly and responsible practices. Their efforts reflect a holistic commitment to sustainability, not only in their agricultural production but also in the way they deliver their products to consumers.

The company is invested in sustainability. Neill says, “We all must understand our role toward a more sustainable future. This encompasses the whole process from sourcing sustainable raw materials, to utilizing sustainable practices in our operations and, most importantly, working with municipalities to ensure we have the systems to handle these different recyclable and compostable solutions.”

The company created polypropylene flow wrap for peppers. Polypropylene materials generate less waste in disposal and are more environmentally friendly than other plastics, while also increasing shelf life and quality. Additionally, for its snacking tomatoes, it uses clamshells and plastic bowls that contain 100% recyclable PET, with a minimum of 70% PCR.

Recycling plastic uses lower energy compared to the process of making virgin plastic from its raw chemicals, which takes up to three times more energy to produce. PCR plastic production results in a 46-79% reduction in environmental impacts when compared to the production of virgin plastic.

The company also launched 10-ounce grape tomatoes, packaged in a fiber pint (a recyclable material that reduces plastic use by over 90%). With the growing concern of single-use plastics, Red Sun Farms announced in 2021 that it would use a home compostable PLU label for cucumbers, tomatoes on the vine and organic peppers.

Red Sun Farms sustainability efforts has allowed the company to divert over 130 tons of plastic from the landfill. Additionally, their fiber pint packaging has captured an innovation award in Berlin, Germany in 2019. The technology is rapidly on the rise and has avoided the equivalent of 7.5 million units of plastic—the equivalent weight of 20 elephants — from entering the supply chain and, potentially, the landfill or ocean.

Sustainability is not about savings for Red Sun Farms. The company participates in sustainable practices because it is the responsible thing to do as good corporate citizens. It values the environment, communities and future generations – they are the reasons the company invests in sustainable practices.

Compostable and recyclable packaging is not the company’s only sustainability initiative; Red Sun Farms utilizes high-tech, sustainable greenhouses that reduce its negative environmental impact. The greenhouses not only recycle nutrients but also collect rainwater channeled through a duct system that is connected to the roof and fulfills most of the water requirements for the plants to grow, resulting in the use of 95% less water than traditional growing methods.

Red Sun Farms continues to look for ways to be more environmentally responsible and serves as inspiration for other companies seeking to make its own packaging environmentally friendly to reduce its ecological footprint.

“As good corporate citizens, Red Sun Farms wants to do their part to make the world better for future generations.”

–Red Sun Farms

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