In July 2017, pitt&sherry and AUSVEG VIC were granted an Energy Efficiency Capabilities project from Sustainability Victoria that has resulted in the two organisations working with Victorian growers to cut their on-farm energy costs. Vegetables Australia reports.

On average, electricity retail prices have increased by more than 60 per cent since 2012 – and are likely to continue to rise. In response to the pressure this adds to businesses, pitt&sherry and AUSVEG VIC have been creating opportunities to reduce energy costs and meet sustainability goals by assisting farmers to identify energy efficiency opportunities and better understand the use of renewable energy options.

This has been achieved through the Energy Efficiency Capabilities project – a Sustainability Victoria initiative that was granted to the organisations two years ago. Since then, 12 Victorian farms have been assessed and, as a result of that engagement, there has been approximately $1.6 million worth of investment made in energy productivity, saving these farms $408,000 in energy costs per year. The project concluded at the end of May 2019.

Starting small

Throughout this project, growers were encouraged to assess their energy costs from across all facets of the farm and start with small adjustments as they looked to continuous improvement. On-farm assessments were conducted, and a strategy was formed as a result. Growers were then given advice on how to proceed.

There were also implementation grants available to growers interested in maximising performance within their business. These were also available from Sustainability Victoria.

“We helped growers to put together a strategy on how to lower their energy costs, and what they needed to do in order to get there,” pitt&sherry Senior Energy Engineer Charles Luo said.

“This meant that they didn’t have to go with massive capital investment straightaway; they could do a range of small things as to not impact their businesses too severely as they continue to get better.

“Every farm can really focus on this energy productivity message by improving their farm from day one with continuous improvement. That’s the best way for them to save on energy and make themselves more competitive. Once you get into that mindset, that’s when you can start thinking about solar and more capital-intensive investments like nickel.”

Grower benefits

The AUSVEG VIC website has facilitated the on-farm information gathered by pitt&sherry in the form of 10 fact sheets, while an Energy Efficiency Calculator has also been established so that growers can undertake their own investigation into energy reduction.

“The idea is to build some industry Flicking the switch on energy costs resilience and individual grower resilience so it’s a lot easier to save your costs at the farm gate rather than trying to recover it further down the supply chain in margins,” pitt&sherry Energy Sector Lead – Technical Director, Energy Services Robert Nicholson said.

“I think that from the significant amount of investment, we’ve been able to also give growers what the expected energy savings would be. And there are other benefits that are more difficult to quantify, such as operational efficiency and process management, that result in businesses becoming better at what they do.”

Furthermore, there are plans to roll this project out nationally, using this project as an example of how growers can benefit. There are opportunities for further workshops and presentations to take place for vegetable growers interested in reducing their energy costs.

“We certainly are open to answer questions and help growers through the process. We’ve had a relationship with AUSVEG for the last four years and are very keen to see this roll out in other states, because it clearly had a benefit for vegetable growers,” Mr Nicholson said.

Find out more

Please contact Robert Nicholson on 0418 224 795 or rnicholson@pittsh.com.au or email AUSVEG VIC at info@ausvegvic.com.au.

This article first appeared in Vegetables Australia – July/August 2019 edition.