Number 7 in the Sustainable Agricultural Practices Series.
The place where food is grown – the farm – is not a place one typically thinks of when thinking of entities adopting sustainability practices. But, more and more, agriculture is, in fact, getting with that program.
In this installment we take a look1 at two potato processing concerns – one in Germany and one in Belgium – whose operations have become more efficient and more environmentally friendly and, as a result, are raking in savings in such areas as energy, waste, water and, of course, money.
Germany-based potato processor Agrarfrost relies exclusively on renewable sources for its supply of electricity. The company has also embraced technology to recover heat and has installed solar hardware for its new 40,000-metric-ton-capacity potato storage facility, according to “Green in many ways: Four global companies find gains from sustainability efforts,” article writer Melanie Epp in the Jan. 2018 Spudman.
According to Epp, over the course of an entire year, a solar system mounted on the edifice roof generates more than 800,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. However, storage facility energy consumption over that same time is approximately 2.2 percent less. This not only results in the solar system producing an electricity surplus, reduced carbon dioxide emissions results too. Improvements like adding insulation to edifice walls, variable capacity fans as well as other upgrades incorporated helps lower the amount of energy lost or prevents energy loss completely.
Meanwhile, Agrarfrost spent nearly $12 million on heat-recovery technology and since 2011, due to this investment, 24 gigawatt-hours of thermal energy has been saved.
When potato processor Mydibel – based in Belgium – was ready to install a system to purify its water, it also was looking for a way to improve bypass and waste streams, according to Epp. What they do not use, the goal is to return to the natural environment. The idea here is to keep potato waste down to the smallest amount possible.
Factory-received product gets a thorough washing before being sorted and turned into different potato products, fries included.
In processing potatoes there is waste and the waste and bypass streams created, instead of their being removed, at Mydibel, are processed inside the production facility.
Furthermore, the starch from the potatoes released during fermentation – what would otherwise be waste – is utilized to produce biogas. The company makes use of a pair of digesters, twice as many biogas motors plus has a system onsite to purify water. The purpose of the motors is to convert the biogas into heat, electricity and other green-energy byproducts, which then is available for processing-facility use. Moreover, bio-fermentation-processed-potato residue is turned into fertilizer for potato growing.
At the company, in producing a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fries nearly a fifth less energy is used this while released carbon dioxide emissions are almost 40 percent less and on average, carbon dioxide emissions are lowered by 616 tons per year, according to the Spudman contributing writer.
- Information source: Melanie Epp, “Green in many ways: Four global companies find gains from sustainability efforts,” Spudman, Jan. 2018, pp. 16-20.
The Jan. 2018 Spudman issue with the Epp article can be accessed here.
This story has been updated.
Image (upper): Scott Bauer, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Image (lower): Scott Bauer, United States Department of Agriculture