JS Ewers putting carbon reduction projects at the fore of operations

JS Ewers

JS Ewers in Nelson opened in 1972 with 8 hectares of outdoor crops, and since then has expanded its growing operations.

Now, with over 130 staff operating 12 hectares of glasshouses and 250 hectares of outdoor land, it is one of the major suppliers of fresh vegetables for the New Zealand market.

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JS Ewers demonstrates a strong commitment to the environment and understands its responsibility to operate in a sustainable way. One of its initiatives was to sign a collaboration agreement with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) in 2017. EECA partners with JS Ewers to manage and improve its energy efficiency, including monitoring and refining its use of power, heating and energy generation.

EECA has helped JS Ewers complete a major project of retrofitting greenhouses with thermal screens to protect crops from overheating on hot days, to minimise heat loss during cold periods, and to trap heat when temperatures drop overnight. EECA co-funded the project, through its technology demonstration fund, providing $50,000 towards retrofitting 60% of its greenhouses.

This solution improves the insulation of the glasshouses by trapping a layer of air between the glass and the thermal screen, while also minimising the amount of warm air that escapes. While challenging to retrofit, this innovation greatly reduces overall energy consumption and is more environmentally friendly than alternative solutions, saving over 1,500 tonnes of carbon from being emitted annually.

Speaking about the project, JS Ewers GM, Pierre Gargiulo says, “We are pleased to partner with EECA to enhance our energy efficiency, and roll out a solution that is in line with our commitment to natural and sustainable growing practices."

 EECA estimates that there are over 200 hectares of commercial glasshouse operations across New Zealand that could benefit from the retrofitting of thermal screens.

As well as energy efficiency initiatives, the company has invested in other sustainable practices, including capturing and recycling water, using eco-friendly punnets for tomatoes made from recycled PET, and offering the option to supply produce with no packaging at all. In glasshouses, JS Ewers uses a combination of rock wool and coco fibre to make a soilless growing substrate, with all plants pollinated naturally using locally- bred bumblebees. Additionally, it is exploring options to heat glasshouses using woody biomass in the future.

A further opportunity to save energy was identified as a result of an independent energy audit, carried out as part of EECA’s agreement with the business. This found that re-configuring the hot water supply system to the greenhouses could vastly improve the boiler utilisation. By installing a ring main and storage tank, the business has been able to run two boilers at maximum efficiency rather than six boilers on part-load, greatly reducing overall emissions.

EECA Account Manager Kanchana Marasinghe has worked with JS Ewers to help it progress on its pathway of continuous improvement.

“We are thrilled to support JS Ewers with its efficiency projects and strategic approach to reducing emissions. Through measures like the innovative thermal screens, and installing the ring main and storage tanks for hot water, it has achieved commendable energy efficiency gains and carbon emission savings. There is great potential for the replication of such measures for other growers around New Zealand, so that they too could benefit from the same efficiency gains, cost savings and carbon reductions.”

 EECA Funding and Support