And from the very beginning, the solution was tailored to the company’s needs.
“It wasn’t a case of ‘you have to have what suits us’”, says Pearson. “They started from what I wanted – and that really got my interest. From that meeting, we never looked back.”
APS Salads now gets exactly the inputs of heat and CO2 that their crop needs.
A 5.6m litre thermal storage tank is heated for approximately 12 hours a day, and releases heat over a 24-hour period. Requirements for heat can fluctuate greatly from day to day, so teams from APS and P3P monitor the status remotely and fine-tune accordingly.
“The grower can relax – he doesn’t have to worry about buying energy in a variable market. He can just concentrate on what he’s good at,” says Pearson. “Which means we get more tomatoes, better tasting tomatoes, with a better shelf life.”
The benefits: lower costs, increased yield, improved sustainability
APS Salads has seen yields increase by 10% while energy costs have decreased. In benchmarking tests of production against competitors, they come out significantly ahead.
100% of cleaned-up CO2 is used in the growing process, reducing the company’s carbon footprint in line with their sustainability objectives. The CHP solution delivers 90% energy efficiency, far ahead of the figure for conventional gas (49-52%) or coal (38%) power stations.
The project was so successful that APS Salads has extended it to two other sites.
“We’re in our third project in almost as many years,” says Pearson, “so that says a lot about the working relationship between our two companies. It excites me actually. We’ve got all sorts of interesting things that we’re doing together.”
The P3P experience
P3P has worked very closely with APS Salads throughout the project, and continues to do so on a daily basis.
So how would the company rate the experience? Phil Pearson takes up the story.
“When you go through these big projects, there are always challenges and difficulties and things that don’t go quite according to plan, because you never know at the beginning what you’re going to find,” he says. “Working with P3P, you always find a solution and you find it in a very timely manner and you move on. And that’s really important.
“By working with P3P, I’ve been able to install a system that I couldn’t have afforded myself from Day 1. They’ve enabled me to have the technology I need to grow crops to the highest possible standards in the UK and become one of the leading growers in the country.
“It’s amazing the number of people I work with who say ‘I’ll take that away and come back to you next week’. With Julian Harris and the P3P team, they say ‘we’ll do that, shall we?’ and we agree on it and it’s done. And we move on to the next subject. It’s brilliant.
“That’s how we’ve been able to do what we’ve done in such a short space of time. It shouldn’t really be possible to develop three energy centres in three years – but that’s exactly what we’ve done.
“I’ve done all sorts of projects in my career. The partnership that you have is measured in many cases by how you deal with the challenges. When it goes right, anybody can do it. It’s when it goes wrong that you really see how good people are.
“When there’s a problem, we often deal with it in a phone call. Occasionally we’ll have a meeting, but we’ve never gone past the one-cup-of-coffee meeting to deal with any problems.
“Julian works fast, makes decisions and moves on. I’m able to do exactly the same on the other side of the table. And with the two of us working together, we just get things done. It’s fantastic.”