The washing and cooling of vegetables has traditionally been a very water intensive process.
Vegetables need to be washed and cooled immediately after picking to ensure that they can be packed, transported and sold in peak condition.
With increasing pressure on businesses to become more water efficient, Heatherton based vegetable grower Butler Market Gardens determined a need to reduce its water use while maintaining food safety levels and vegetable quality.
Specialising in soft vegetables such as pak choy, several lettuce varieties and herbs, Butler Market Gardens, developed and trialled a new system of treating and recycling water used in the washing these soft vegetables.
The washing machine collects water used to wash vegetables and treats it with an antibacterial solution that ensures the produce exceeds food sanitation requirements.
The treated water can then be reused with the washing process repeated several times each day.
By treating and reusing the wash water, the project has seen Butler reduce mains water use from 80,000 litres per day down to 4000 litres per day.
While water savings are a key part of the project, a second benefit is also important to note. The recycling system incorporates an Ecolab Tsunami microbial control agent in the washing process.
The Tsunami system uses a Peroxyacetic Acid based antibacterial solution, instead of harsh processed chemicals such as chlorine, ultimately reducing the waste water’s impact on the sewerage system when it is eventually sent to the sewer.
With the new washing system in full time service, farm manager Rick Butler hopes to show the potential of this system for application across the soft vegetable growing industry.
“With the help of the Smart Water Fund, we have developed a system that has helped us reduce our own water consumption by nearly 95% and can be easily installed and operated by soft vegetable growers throughout Victoria.”
In addition to huge water savings the project has delivered financial benefits for Butler, with the implementation of this system leading to a reduction in its quarterly bills by approximately 60%.
Rick has been extremely pleased with the results of the project.
“This project has proven the potential water savings this system can deliver to other growers,” Rick said.
“We have become a more sustainable business by reducing our environmental impact and our production costs.”