Ontario greenhouses explore alternative fuels - The Packer

Ontario greenhouses explore alternative fuels

02/02/2012 05:13:00 PM
Coral Beach

KINGSVILLE, Ontario — Even greenhouses in the sunniest spot in Canada have to supplement Mother Nature to maintain the correct growing temperatures in their facilities, but more and more are finding alternative energy sources.

Mastronardi Produce Ltd. launched a greenhouse operation in Sarnia last year under the name Envirofresh Farms.

Nancy Pickersgill, Mastronardi’s marketing coordinator, said the facility actually has a carbon-negative footprint.

Coral BeachJoe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing, explains how the burners at Mucci Farms can run on a variety of alternative fuels, including wood chips and biomass pellets.The Sarnia greenhouse is near a fertilizer plant that had excess steam and carbon dioxide — two key ingredients in greenhouse operations.

Joe Sbrocchi, Mastronardi’s vice president for sales and marketing, said the produce company made a longterm deal with the plant to buy the steam and CO2.

A third-party audit confirmed that the setup results in a negative carbon footprint for the greenhouse.

Mucci Farms, has also been focusing on alternative energy for a few years.

Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing for Mucci, said the company has converted to burners that can handle anything from natural gas to oil, but they usually operate on chipped wood.

“We kept thousands of loads of demolition wood out of landfills after Hurricane Katrina because we brought it up here and burned it,” Spano said.

In 2007 Mucci formed a company, Remasco, which takes waste destined for landfills and turns it into biomass pellets, which can be burned for energy.

Coral BeachIn the Del Fresco Produce greenhouses heating pipes that run between rows of plants do double duty — they heat the lower portions of the greenhouse and serve as rails for harvesting carts to roll on while workers pick tomatoes and peppers.Bert Mucci is president of Remasco and maintains a role with Mucci Farms.

There are rigorous regulations regarding the preparation of the biomass pellets to ensure that no plastics, metals or other problematic materials are included in the pellets, which Mucci said burn cleaner than most traditional fossil fuels.

A third Kingsville greenhouse produce operation, Del Fresco Produce Ltd., is also in the alternative fuel scene.

Carl Mastronardi, president of Del Fresco, said the company’s 3,600 horsepower heaters can be fueled by a variety of substances.

They provide heat to the greenhouses through an intricate pipe system.

The pipes at floor level in the greenhouses run between rows of plants and serve not only as heating elements, but as rails to roll harvest carts on during harvest.

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