Not Far from the Tree: At Algoma Orchards, recycled water is vital for doing good business.
When Algoma Orchards outgrew its Whitby, Ontario location four years ago, the company moved to a larger farmland in Newcastle that offered a limited water supply. With no municipal water source, the land itself had just a few wells to sustain the entire orchard, juice and cider operation.
“We found ourselves in a position to enter the apple juice business in addition to having the orchard,” says Kirk Kemp, president of Algoma Orchards. “We were in need of a solution to make the most of what little water we had.”
“We wanted to clean the water enough so that it could be released back into the environment, so we thought, ‘why not go one step further so that we can reuse it?’”
With that in mind, the company was able to secure a $750,000 grant from the provincial government’s Economic Development Fund to help with construction of the juice plant, a portion of the recycling facility, and to cover some economic development costs.
After consultations with other groups that just didn’t seem to understand Algoma’s needs or the scope of the project, Algoma was connected with Toronto-based ALTECH Technology Systems by a mutual colleague who thought that the team could make the orchard’s innovative water reuse system a reality.
“He’s like a nutty professor, in the nicest possible way,” says Kemp of ALTECH’s president and CEO Alex Keen.
The concept is simple: remove solids and bacteria using a SWACO filter and HydroClean® system to make it potable, then add a dash of chlorine as a failsafe. This system treats and upgrades 40,000 litres of wastewater per day, then mixes 80 per cent of that recycled water with well water, storing it for reuse in four on-site tanks.
It was so innovative, in fact, that when ALTECH was ordering supplies from Microdyn-Nadir in Germany, Stefan Krause, manager of MBR applications, decided to come to Canada to see it for himself and offer assistance.
“It’s an off-the-wall application, and maybe a prelude to where water treatment should go,” says Keen.
He stresses that without the immense level of trust between Algoma Orchards and ALTECH, the project would not have seen the light of day.
Keen says that assessing Algoma Orchards’ needs compared to the property’s existing functionality was “kind of a rock and a hard place situation.” In terms of scope and innovation, he says, “trust was a very important factor.”
With this project completed, the team at Algoma Orchards has already begun moving into new realms, partnering with EnerNOC’s DemandSMART program to reduce their operations’ energy use during peak times and planning the installation of a solar roof next spring that will generate 500 kilowatts of power.
Kemp speaks proudly of these accomplishments and goals. “It certainly separates us from our competitors,” he says. — Jessie Davis