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Industrial sustainability: Power to the tomatoes!

Feb. 17, 2022
Greenhouse operator NWT adopts low-voltage gear from ABB to maintain optimum, pesticide-free growing conditions at Bezdinek Farms' 11-hecare commercial greenhouse in the Czech Republic.

When it emerged from the accounting department in recent years to become a full-fledged process control variable, energy also gained the parameters, data and flexibility to further optimize processes, save money and enable sustainability, too.

For instance, the mission of Bezdinek Farm and its 11-hectare, commercial greenhouse is to provide ideal conditions for growing fresh produce year round. Located in Dolni Lutyně, in the Czech Republic's eastern Moravian-Silesian region near Poland, the farm harvests several tonnes of tomatoes daily. It grows crops in a compostable substrate with prevailing rainwater. Plus, it uses biological pest protection instead of pesticides, and was recently the first vegetable farm in the Czech Republic to earn its prestigious pesticide-free certification (Figure 1).

“The Bezdinek farm has the most advanced greenhouse operation in the Czech Republic," says Jiři Stodůlka, director of the Agro division at NWT (agro.nwt.cz), a local construction firm and greenhouse operator. "Its special silvicultural lights make it the only facility able to produce fresh, healthy vegetables for 12 months of the year.”

These greenhouses are multiplying worldwide as sustainable alternatives to importing large amounts of produce with short shelf lives, but they require reliable and intelligent power systems. To maintain its own optimum growing conditions, including consistent temperature, humidity and light, Bezdinek Farm recently worked with NWT to implement low-voltage components from ABB (www.abb.com). These devices included air and molded case circuit breakers, AF contactors, manual motor starters, OT and InLine II fuse switch disconnectors and monitoring relays. ABB has also worked with NWT on biogas and photovoltaic facilities to make its advanced greenhouses more sustainable.

“ABB’s power distribution solutions are designed for harsh operating environments, making them better suited to the heat and humidity of greenhouse operations," says Vladimir Janypka, managing director of ABB's electrification business in the Czech Republic. "We understand how important it is to deliver the reliability needed to keep the greenhouse productive. Any downtime has an immediate impact and the speed at which the tomatoes ripen.”

Paolo Perani, sustainability manager at ABB, adds, "We're mostly talking about environmental sustainability these days, but this isn't new for ABB because we published our first sustainability report in 2000. Today, sustainability isn't a buzzword anymore. Sustainability is hot! Users demand what's important to them, and right now, there's a huge push to be clear about what we're doing with sustainability. They're usually very demanding about uptime and reliability of their processes, but they also care about their efficiency and operational losses. Lately, more users are asking for more sustainable materials such as recycled materials and in general to have higher sustainable products without compromising the performance.”

Perani reports that their CO2 assessments show that the bulk of emissions, for its devices like circuit breakers, occur during the use-phase at the customer, and in the supply chain at suppliers. ABB has therefore increasingly been pushing its suppliers to be more sustainable alongside themselves. For example, by increasing the share of sustainable resources used to build them. "We also assess equipment to be used in brownfields, which is getting more important due to the European Union's green deal and upcoming carbon taxes," says Perani. "We're also getting new products ready for them."

Perani adds that ABB also recently added 75 sub-meters to its 45-year-old plant in Dalmine, Italy, and connected them to its energy and asset monitors. These let it find operating losses due to compressed air and other factors, and clearly identify responses that paid for the meters in 18 months. The facility also replaced is existing lighting towers with more efficient lighting, which saved enough at night to charge cars during the day.

"These kinds of opportunities can be found by looking at present power loads, and doing energy audits that also show how much CO2 is being emitted. Once you ballpark where you're at, then you can begin dealing with larger issues, such as adding sub-meters to save on electricity and addressing other low-hanging fruit," explains Perani. "Simulations can let users run and playbook other configurations, and ABB can help develop payback calculations, especially with the help of drives and highly efficient motors. After getting some initial payback, you can use it to sell management on other efforts. Sustainability includes financial sustainability, so it's nice to be able to prove it."

About the author: Jim Montague

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