NAIROBI, Kenya: : Flower farms in Kenya are throwing money down the drain, literally. Post-harvest treatment solution is used once and consumes a lot of chemicals, energy and water which then needs to be disposed of. The good news: there is a new environmentally friendly ultrafiltration recycling system that can recycle and purify this water to a very high degree while reducing the overall cost of production.
The system, developed by Pure Water Solutions Ltd in conjunction with Hardi Kenya’s Florissant 810 post-harvest treatment, is gaining ground since its introduction in September. According to Brandon Barbour who has been crisscrossing the flower growing zones in Kenya explaining how the system works, Ruiru based Red Lands Roses makes history as the first farm where it is running at full throttle.
“Having talked at length to a number of farmers and asking them what the fundamental requirements of a post-harvest solution was we realised we could, in conjunction with modern post-harvest solutions, produce a mechanical system to fulfil their wishes and save them money,” said Brandon.
Pure Water Solutions is currently building the second commercial system for a Timau-based flower farm. “This is the first plant we know of in the world using ultrafiltration for post-harvest recycling,” Brandon said when Kenya’s leading horticultural news source, HortiNews, visited the state-of-the-art farm Red Lands Roses to see how the system works. This development puts Kenya on the world map, a step that will greatly improve the image of its flowers as grown under green energy.
Red Lands Roses managing director, Aldric Spindler, says the farm adopted the system on the strength of savings on cooling energy, water preservation, post-harvest chemicals, time, labour and money. “Water is a scarce commodity, energy is costly, preservation chemicals are expensive and Brandon’s technology helps in significant reductions leading to overall cost benefits,” he said adding that the payback time for the investment is one year.
It is also a big plus for the National Mechanism for industry-wide compliance, a programme that is being spearheaded by the Kenya Flower Council to demonstrate that the country produces its flowers in an environmentally sustainable manner minimising use of water and energy.
By the same token, the technology will add to the efforts being undertaken for the Carbon Reduction and Opportunities Toolkit. This indicates how much water and energy go into the flower production chain to maintain the Grown Under the Sun label; an indicator that flowers from Kenya have been produced in a low carbon emission environment for better prices and market access.
Reducing energy and water usage are not the only gains in the ultrafiltration post-harvest recycling system pack. “Before this technology, farms threw away the water with all post-harvest ingredients. This need not happen anymore,” says Brandon. The filtered water retains the chemicals, topped up each cycle to required levels, resulting in savings on the chemical and associated environmental benefits.
The system can incorporate insulated tanks where the post-harvest water, chilled from the cold room, is quickly collected and the cold energy locked in. It then passes through an ultrafiltration membrane where viruses, bacteria and dirt are eliminated. A tiny amount of the post-harvest chemical is dosed into the water through an automatic pH control mechanism to replenish what was used up and then the water is ready to go back to the field for the next harvest.
Starting with sterile clean water, keeping it cold and at a lower pH eradicates the chance for bacteria to develop since they hate acidic cold environments. The post-harvest chemical also contains a bactericide. With the greatly reduced consumption of the specially formulated Florissant 810 post-harvest chemical, flower growers previously making their own home-brews can now also afford to use a more sophisticated product.
Says Brandon, “The only water thrown away to the wetland is the backwash from the filter, meaning a farm using this technology disposes of only about 5% of its post-harvest water, instead of 100%.”