This is the first in a series of articles that will help fruit growers and packers save money by reducing energy use and costs. In this article we find that changing your packing and grading equipment won’t help you a lot.
Modern fruit packing and grading machines are large and take up a lot of space on the pack house floor and require many electric motors. It could therefore be assumed that this equipment would be a big energy user or energy “sink” in a pack house – however, this is proving not to be the case.
Only about 8 per cent of the total energy used to produce fruit is used in packing and grading. Importantly, the data we are collecting from energy-use audits of pack houses Australia-wide is revealing that there is only a limited opportunity to reduce energy use by changing packing and grading equipment in small-scale pack houses.
Annie Farrow, APAL’s Industry Services Manager said that after contacting one of Australia’s leading grader manufacturers, APAL was disappointed to learn that few opportunities exist for achieving energy savings by updating technologies on existing grading/packing equipment. This is because packing lines are set in the shed for functionality first and energy efficiency second.
“The reality is that the motors and the other parts of packing lines are set up to deliver a function,” says Annie. “In general, they can’t be interfered with or their functionality changes. In contrast, some of the other motors in a pack house or orchard – such as refrigeration compressors and irrigation pumps – can be adjusted to save energy.
“Our auditors found that the main packing line component that could be made more energy efficient is the dryer on an apple packing line – but that is about it for packing.”
Nevertheless there are some important, low cost ways to save energy in a pack house and in an orchard. APAL is producing a number of fact sheets, case studies and upcoming articles in Australian Fruitgrower magazine that will all be available on the APAL website, which will provide information to growers on how to reduce energy use and costs.
The initial energy audits showed that an average saving of 17% of electricity costs is possible when targeted, cost effective investments with a short payback period of six years are made. Average short payback cost savings per orchard were $2,600 to $147,590 per annum.
APAL’s findings from 30 audits of packing sheds Australia-wide will be reported at the regional, Watts in your Business, orchard and pack house walks in July and August this year. At these walks, growers will see where the biggest energy and cost savings can be made.
The ‘Watts in your Business’ project is identifying ways to reduce energy use costs in Australia’s pome fruit, stone fruit and cherry industries. The project is managed by APAL, undertaken with Summerfruit Australia Limited and Cherry Growers Australia Inc., and funded under the Australian Government’s Energy Efficiency Information Grants program.