FREDERICTON – A local organic maple syrup producer has found a way to be even more environmentally responsible and save tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
Canadian Organic Maple Co. has reduced its oil consumption by 100,000 litres through NB Power’s Energy Efficiency Program, which represents about $65,000 in costs per year.
Located in Divide, New Brunswick, the company is one of the world’s largest producers of organic maple syrup. The owners, Gus and Sandra Hargrove, started it as their retirement business in 1999.
Gus Hargrove says big maple syrup companies in Vermont, Ontario and Nova Scotia have access to similar programs. They were on the lookout for one in New Brunswick.
“We kept watching and asking about it,” he said.
Hargrove, who has an engineering background, saw an opportunity to save oil consumption and energy through the program, which lasted two years.
Canadian Organic Maple hired an engineering firm to carry out the analysis during the first year and apply changes during the second year.
Changes included replacing 30 diesel-driven oil spare pumps with electric pumps. Before, they had a big diesel engine driving the pumps. Now they have small, aero electric motors driving them more efficiently, says Hargrove.
“Some of the stuff had never been tried before in maple,” he said.
The Energy Efficiency Program has two streams: electric projects and non-electric projects. The non-electric side of the program was launched in October 2017, and Canadian Organic Maple was the first company to participate in it.
Jessica Vihvelin, Brand Lead in NB Power Energy Efficiency, says the federal government provided funding for non-electric projects through the Low Carbon Economy Fund.
Spencer Devereaux, Technical Energy Advisor and one of the NB Power staff that was involved with the project, says it cost a little higher than what they expected. The analysis cost $25,000, and the whole project about $265,000. NB Power gave an incentive of $112,000.
Hargrove and NB Power had set a goal of reducing oil consumption from 125,000 to 25,000 litres. After the program, it dropped to even less than 25,000.
“We achieved the result we were hoping for,” said Hargrove.
The company produces around 250,000 bottles of maple syrup each per year. The Hargroves have an affiliated company that belongs to their son and his wife, South Ridge Maple Company Limited. Hargrove says the two maple syrup companies produce half a million bottles of maple syrup.
South Ridge Maple didn’t participate in NB Power’s Energy Efficiency Program, as they are trying to keep the companies separate. But Hargrove says he believes the company will apply to the program on its own.
Reducing oil consumption means 700 tons of greenhouse gas avoided, he said. Aside from the environmental benefits that came from switching to electric pumps, Canadian Organic Maple has increased its production by seven-to-10 per cent.
“The machines run more efficiently and are more reliable with electricity, and we are able to run them in times when it wasn’t worthwhile to run them,” said Hargrove.
Aside from producing maple syrup, the company produces value-added products such as maple sugar and maple candy. Hargrove says it’s more profitable and there’s less competition for that.
Hargrove’s plans include making more maple sugar and continuing to grow the company.
“We really are proud to be one of the lowest energy consuming producers,” he said.
Devereaux says working with Canadian Organic Maple, who is aiming for a zero-carbon site, was a great experience for NB Power.
“It was great. They are a customer of ours and we were able to support them…It helped them a lot,” he said.
Vihvelin believes it’s exciting to help strengthen New Brunswick businesses that produce quintessential and local products.
“It’s a win, win, win on so many levels,” she said. “There’s a lot of trust and respect, and a lot of appreciation for the help in both financial expenses and advice towards implementing their project goals.”