‘Eco-friendly’ bonus in super glasshouse

  • Bronte Hewett reports:

GATHERED for the opening of the glasshouse expansion (above) are (from left) Peter Edwards, CEO of the Victor Smorgon Group,Leesa Vlahos, MP for Taylor, Lachlan Bruce, deputy chief executive of Department of Trade and Economic Development, Michael Simonetta, CEO of Perfection Fresh and Charles Mansueto, CEO of District Council of Mallala.

Stage two of a total $65 million, 17-hectare glasshouse development at Two Wells officially opened yesterday.
South Australian glasshouse tomato producer d’VineRipe will have the capacity to produce 10,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year – double the annual production output of the past three years. About 100 new jobs will be created.
The opening, which acknowledged the final stage of a joint venture between Perfection Fresh and the Victor Smorgon Group, was attended by about 100 people
Perfection Fresh CEO, Michael Simonetta and Victor Smorgon Group CEO, Peter Edwards, made welcoming addresses to guests, who then toured the facilities.
Mr Simonetta acknowledged a number of critical success factors, which helped the company’s large two-stage glasshouse project come to fruition.
He said the success of d’VineRipe was due to support of customers, extensive research into different tomato varieties, a great team of staff and the company’s proactive approach to sustainability.
Deputy chief executive of the Department of Trade and Economic Development, Lachlan Bruce, officially opened stage two yesterday.
D’VineRipe is already working towards a further sustainable future by investigating water and green waste recycling.
General manager, Leon Maree, said d’VineRipe would investigate the feasibility of generating renewable energy such as biogas by composting its own waste on-site instead of sending it to landfill.
Mr Maree said it was d’VineRipe’s medium to long-term objective to process more than 850 tonnes of green waste generated a year.
“Doubling the crop capacity presents both a challenge and an opportunity. While the amount of green waste will more than double from 400 tonnes, this could potentially become a viable source of power in its own right,” Mr Maree (pictured below) said.
“Right now, the tomato plants are removed from the glasshouse at the end of their growing cycle. Nylon twine and plastic clips within the plants render the waste suitable only for landfill.
“Our objective is to investigate how biodigesting – or decomposing the waste by reducing its weight and volume – could potentially produce a gas to replace the natural gas currently used to operate the glasshouse.”
Mr Maree said the concept, in the early stages of development, would look at ways in which to separate green waste from other materials. It could also potentially save the business up to $70,000 a year in landfill fees.
“This is a vast operation which, from an environmental perspective, operates efficiently using its own or locally available renewable resources,” Mr Maree said.
“With stage two operating, we require up to 520 megalitres of water a year to water the crop and cool the glasshouse.
“A proportion of that comes from rainfall captured on the glasshouse roof. For every 10 millimetres of rainfall, the roof can now capture close to two megalitres.
“The rest will continue to be treated water drawn from the nearby Bolivar Water Reuse Project. That amount – up to 400 megalitres a year – will vary depending on rainfall, the time of year and the quality of water.”
Mr Maree said d’VineRipe now had the capacity to store 10 megalitres of water in tanks and 70 megalitres in dams. Its evaporative pond capacity for waste water spanned eight hectares.
“In terms of d’VineRipe’s operational requirements, sunlight, water and seeds are all sustainable resources. We’re not relying on nature or a river system to meet irrigation needs and as long as we can secure long-term supply from a commercial point of view, we can offer greater pricing stability and operate as a sustainable business,” he said.
All key glasshouse infrastructure had more than doubled with the progression to stage two with the world’s best practices in high-tech design and operations incorporated into the development.
Mr Maree said: “Other tomato glasshouses in Australia use screening or fogging technology or a combination of both. Our geographic location requires pad and fan technology to either reduce the temperature inside the glasshouse, increase the humidity, or both.

d'VineRIpe general manager, Leon Maree, and an aerial view of the site just north of Two Wells.

“The glasshouse now features a total of 384 cooling pads throughout, or 48 fans in every 1.22 hectare block.”
He said key stage two improvements made within d’VineRipe’s packing facility included the implementation of an automated buffer – or queuing system – now able to hold several hundred trays of produce at a time as it approached new flow-wrapping lines, substantially increasing output.
“We have the capacity to process, on average, more than 200 tonnes of fruit a day from both packing and pre-packing lines.
“With up to 20 different products being processed at any one time and some 10,000 tonnes grown a year, that equates to an output of 10 million kilograms of fruit a year.”