Cost-cutting to bear fruit: orchardists to save on electricity bills

PROACTIVE: Owner of Caernarvon Cherry Co Fiona Hall with her heavy machinery - one of several increasing energy costs
PROACTIVE: Owner of Caernarvon Cherry Co Fiona Hall with her heavy machinery - one of several increasing energy costs

ENERGY consumption accounts for a huge proportion of production costs in Australian orchards, creating a massive financial burden on fruit growers and seriously impacting their overall profit margin.

Thanks to Apple and Pear Australia’s (APAL) Watts in Your Business seminar at Caernarvon Cherry Co on Wednesday, fruit growers in Orange now have the knowledge to implement energy saving initiatives.

The Watts in Your Business program has completed energy audits of 30 pack houses and orchards Australia-wide to enable APAL to identify ways in which businesses can reduce energy use within the apple, pear, summer fruit and cherry industries.

Upward of a dozen orchardists from Orange and surrounding districts attended the seminar yesterday, which focused largely on how specific changes to lighting, refrigeration, irrigation and electricity tariffs can substantially reduce power costs.

“Electricity costs are the second highest costs for fruit growers outside labour,” APAL communications manager Sophie Clayton said.

“So essentially, this is to reduce those costs in the packing sheds and across the orchard, and of course to save energy in general.

OUR SAY: Fruitful advice and assistance for orchardists

“The program  shows some very clear opportunities where they can do that and one of the key things was to find areas to do it with short payback periods.”

Wednesday’s seminar featured an hour- long presentation by members of APAL, and KMH Environmental, before taking the attendees on a walk around Caernarvon, using the host orchard as an example.

Bonnyglen Fruits and Caernarvon Cherry Co owner Fiona Hall said the rising cost of electricity is a problem orchardists must act on immediately.

“We were one of the sites APAL audited, and this is all about helping the entire region to reduce power costs,” she said.

“We already have the automated doors, and solar power. We can still look at other things though, particularly refrigeration.

“It’s hugely important, our margins get lower and lower with costs rising. The research is there so we need to start being proactive about this.”