Crofter's Recycles Water at its Jam Plant
In 2013, when Crofter’s Food Ltd. began building a new plant to manufacture its organic fruit spreads, the company ran into a sticky situation. The plan was to build the facility in the rural area of Parry Sound, Ontario, where the company has been based since its founding in 1989 by Gerhand and Gabriele Latka. The location was conveniently next to an existing warehouse owned by Crofters, but it had no access to municipal water and sewage services.
Access to water itself wasn’t really an issue, says Dan Latka, the founders’ son and director of marketing: “We’re in Parry Sound, at the heart of the Georgian Bay; we’re surrounded by fresh water; but we feel we have a responsibility to treat it with care and respect.”
The thing about making jam is it’s messy. So Crofter’s needed a lot of water to keep the plant clean. The challenge was what to do with all the wastewater without municipal services? Initially, it seemed the only option would be to build an enormous septic bed, which would have resulted in thousands of liters of water being discharged daily. But, fortunately, there was a greener way to solve the problem.
Crofter’s commissioned a Canadian engineer and General Electric to build one of the first micro-scaled water-treatment constructions for a manufacturing application. Unlike a septic system, the wastewater from the production process is capture and moves through numerous steps to remove all foreign material and contaminants, which then allows the water to be reused.
The initial steps in the process filter the physical foreign contaminants, such as pieces of fruit, but the real magic happens in the MBR (membrane bioreactor). Water enters the MBR, which contains billions of microorganisms that consume dissolved contaminants in the water — in Crofter’s case, sugars. Then, the water passes through the final stages — reserve osmosis and filtration. The company reuses most of the water filtered through the plant for cleaning machinery and floors.
“Just because there’s an abundance of something doesn’t mean you should abuse it,” says Latka. “As an organic product [company], we want to be not only healthy, but sustainable, and building the wastewater system seemed like the right way to do that.”
Since the facility’s opening in 2016, Crofter’s has already been able to reduce its water consumption by over 80 percent in the new plant and plans to pursue a zero wastewater certification in 2018.