Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Energy drive for growers

Goulburn Valley fruit growers are being challenged to find energy efficiencies in their packing sheds.

July 29, 2014 3:05am

Host grower Rocky Varapodio explaining a point about energy.

A zero-degree start to the morning meant lots of hand rubbing and foot stomping but it didn’t deter Goulburn Valley fruit growers from turning out early to discover how they can cut the cost of power in packing sheds.

The setting was Rocky Varapodio’s OzPac Australia at Ardmona last week where growers went on an energy efficiency walk to learn where their power expenses go as part of Apple and Pear Australia Limited’s Watts in Your Business project event.

Second to labour, energy is the biggest cost a fruit grower faces.

To find ways to save energy and cut costs, the Watts in Your Business project conducted 30 energy audits in 10 Australian fruit growing regions including the Goulburn Valley.

OzPac Australia owner Rocky Varapodio said it was important to get the audit results out to other growers.

‘‘Energy cost is a big issue in our industry and being involved in the audits was very good for our business,’’ Mr Varapodio said.

‘‘And I’m happy to be able to show the information to other fruit growers in this region.’’

On average, the audits could reduce packing shed energy consumption by about 30 per cent and costs by 13 per cent with annual ‘‘cost effective’’ savings of $16281.

KHM Environmental consultant Amanda Booth conducted the audits and led the group last Wednesday.

Ms Booth said growers in the Goulburn Valley were keen to find energy efficient solutions.

‘‘They had all the right questions. But the answers depended on the grower’s situation,’’ Ms Booth said.

‘‘We conducted audits on small, medium and large sheds so not everyone had the same solutions. There is no right or wrong answer or specific product.’’

Ms Booth said behavioural change was just as important as new technology.

‘‘Things like turning off vehicles when they were idle, closing cool store doors and fixing air compressor leaks,’’ Ms Booth said.

‘‘It’s the little things that add up as well as the bigger technologies.’’

Mooroopna fruit grower Peter Hall walked the walk and said he would use the information.

‘‘The way they put key areas and electricity consumption in segmented parts was helpful,’’ Mr Hall said.

‘‘I now know how I can save a lot of money.’’

The top energy-saving opportunities found by the audits included off-peak irrigation, automatic cold storage doors, upgrading lights to LED lights, solar energy and high efficiency motors for irrigation systems.

APAL chairman John Lawrenson said as labour costs were out of a growers’ control, energy savings counted.

‘‘Countries such as Asia and Chile and even New Zealand have up to 20 per cent less labour costs than us,’’ Mr Lawrenson said.

‘‘The premise on lowering energy costs is to encourage competitiveness in the export markets.’’

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