GrowSave has been keeping growers abreast of the latest energy saving techniques since 2007. A collaboration between AHDB and NFU Energy, it was originally set up to serve the protected edible and protected ornamental sectors and extended to cover soft fruit in 2018. It’s now set for a new five-year funding term with a wider remit to include the potato, dairy, pork, cereal and oilseed sectors. A diverse programme of coordinated knowledge exchange, GrowSave shares established and emerging best practice and shows how to implement this commercially on farm and in the nursery. Farmers and growers learn how to save energy, manage it efficiently, understand alternative energy sources, and develop more sustainable production.
The focus on efficiency has enabled many growers to reduce energy costs and reduce their Climate Change Levy payments. Others have realised the long term financial benefits of government incentives for renewable generation.
Something for everyone
Although energy can be up to 30% of total variable costs in some horticultural businesses, GrowSave is not just for big energy users or those with big projects. There’s something for everyone. “Some of the best returns we’ve seen come from behavioural changes and simple efficiency improvements,” says NFU Energy Director Jon Swain. “You can save energy by just changing how you manage the growing environment, with very little or no spend on technology. This includes understanding where you’re using and losing energy, better management of humidity and ventilation, improving the performance of the greenhouse or cold store, and making sure your boilers run efficiently. These are all popular GrowSave topics.”
The increasing importance of the net zero agenda and lower carbon production means that GrowSave is now more relevant than ever. Being more energy efficient is a direct way of reducing carbon emissions and something that most businesses can address fairly readily. Various projects are planned to look at energy related developments specific to the new GrowSave sectors. Meanwhile, businesses can benefit by tapping into existing resources as many of the concepts and techniques are relevant and applicable to all sectors. The team also continue to lead the way in bringing new, cutting edge techniques GrowSave set to go from strength to strength into the UK mainstream. An example was the pilot study group programme looking at Next Generation Growing (NGG) in horticulture, pioneered by Dutch growers. Also called ‘plant empowerment’, the approach uses data to achieve the optimum growing climate. Some of this is still in its infancy but anecdotal evidence shows NGG adopters are achieving increased yields and improved crop quality.