Jun 23 2021

Tomato and vegetable growers team up with EECA to find low carbon energy sources for greenhouses

Tomato and vegetable growers who use greenhouses are working with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to find ways to reduce energy use and their carbon footprint.

‘Our industry anticipated the Government’s direction on climate change mitigation and reducing the use of fossil fuels,’ says TomatoesNZ General Manager, Helen Barnes.

‘We’ve held several workshops around the country to give greenhouse tomato and vegetable growers practical tips on how to reduce energy needs and switch to other sources of energy. 

‘However, to fundamentally reduce the use of fossil fuels, new technology and growing techniques need to be developed. 

‘That’s where the partnership with EECA really comes in, as the tomato and vegetable growing sector cannot make such a fundamental shift in how it uses energy, and where its energy comes from, alone.’ 

Covered crop decarbonisation project

Over the next few months, the sector will start a covered crop decarbonisation project.  This project will identify feasible options for growers to reduce energy use and ultimately, switch to sustainable fuel sources.  The next phase of the project will include the evaluation of potential opportunities or new technologies in the field, with the outcomes shared with all growers.

The information, case studies and resources generated by the project will help growers make technically and economically viable decisions and investments, which will support their energy transition to a low carbon future.

Implementation of recommended opportunities will be up to individual growers and will take a number of years.  However, the project will arm growers with information and service provider connections to support their transition.    

Vegetables New Zealand General Manager, Antony Heywood says growers who use greenhouses to grow vegetables like capsicums and cucumbers are keen to reduce their carbon footprint. 

‘But they require the right technology, the confidence to invest, and time to transition to ensure their businesses are sustainable.’ 

EECA says it is very pleased to be providing practical advice to the horticulture industry. 

‘It is important to investigate and optimise every part of the process, says EECA Sector Programme Manager, Glenn Wellington. 

‘It is the combination of process and technology change, energy efficiency and ultimately, fuel switching that will make the transition to low carbon a viable option.’ 

NZ Hothouse Ltd Managing Director, Simon Watson says they see the partnership with EECA as a massive opportunity to future proof the commercial vegetable growing industry in New Zealand.

‘The decarbonisation initiatives and funding will ensure that growers can sustainably produce fresh, safe, local and healthy vegetables for New Zealanders.  Without EECA’s support, we risk the loss of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in stranded assets, and the permanent loss of food security for New Zealand.’ 

Problem and solutions can appear complex

Island Horticulture Managing Director, Rob Lindsay says the problem is complex and the solutions can appear even more so.

‘In attempting to move to carbon neutral energy sources, we all can make a difference. However, for an effective and enduring outcome, we need to carefully consider all available options, and choose the most appropriate to apply. 

‘In doing this, we recognise the myriad of different factors that influence covered cropping.  For example, regional climate, the temperature requirements of the crop grown, and the long-term security of the local energy sources available to growers.  I look forward to working with EECA to refine the options to find some sensible solutions for New Zealand growers.’ 



Written by Andrew Bristol