New Zealand's leading mushroom grower is committed to reducing carbon emissions

Meadow Mushrooms delivers nine million mushrooms per week to wholesalers, distributors and retailers across the country. That's a lot of mushrooms and a lot of steam to clean and sterilise facilities at the company's main growing and packing site in Hornby, Christchurch.

Steam is commonly used in the mushroom industry for pest and disease management. Currently, a diesel fired boiler produces live steam that cleans the drying rooms at the Hornby site, reducing the need for excessive use of pesticides and chemical sanitisers. As part of the company’s sustainability plan, Meadow will replace the diesel boiler with a low carbon electric option, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The project is co-funded by EECA through the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry initiative (GIDI Fund). The GIDI Fund is a partnership between Government and business to accelerate the decarbonisation of industrial process heat and contribute to the COVID-19 recovery by stimulating the domestic economy and supporting employment. A total of $69 million is available across three separate funding rounds. The total cost of the Meadow project is over $1.5 million, with GIDI contributing $400,000.

Fuel use in the indoor cropping sector over time
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“The funding is very, very important,” says Kiri Armstrong, Technical Manager at Meadow Mushrooms. “If you were looking at the project purely from a cost point of view, it would be hard to make a business case for it without the funding. We purchased a new diesel boiler in 2018 which would have been expected to last 20 years or more so we’ve had to take a hit on that. The payback will take longer than usual for a capital investment but sustainability is important to the board and the Burdon family who own Meadow Mushrooms.”

Meadow has been working with EECA on their energy efficiency plan since 2014 when the company did its first energy audit with Lumen, an energy consulting firm. That audit resulted in significant energy savings.

“Since then we’ve been very aware of our carbon footprint and doing what we can to reduce our emissions,” says Armstrong.

Featured on right - Kiri Armstrong, Technical Manager at Meadow Mushrooms

Planning for sustainability

The GIDI project is one part of Meadow Mushrooms' sustainability plan. The company has moved to using more electric forklifts on site, replaced petrol tractors with electric trucks, improved the efficiency of their chilled water plant and improved insulation. They have also changed their growing room lights to LEDs that have been designed by Meadow Mushroom’s engineers and are considered a world first for mushroom growing. Together with a few other projects, the company estimates it has abated or eliminated 320 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the last two years.  

Mushrooms are one of the most sustainably grown foods on the planet. They’re ready to pick in days, require minimal natural resources to grow, and the vertical farming system means they deliver one of the best yields per square metre of land in the agricultural industry. Meadow Mushrooms is the largest producer of fresh mushrooms in New Zealand with five sites and a team of nearly 500 people.

The new low carbon boiler at the Hornby site will result in a reduction in carbon emissions of 38,676 tCO2 over a 25-year lifespan. This is an average annual carbon abatement of 1,547 tCO2e/year.

“This project is critical to our sustainability plan,” says Darren Patterson, Meadow Mushrooms’ Sustainability Manager. “We’ve got an ambitious plan to eliminate our fossil fuel emissions and reduce our other emissions as much as possible. The replacement of this diesel boiler goes a long way towards meeting that goal.”

Partnering for good

As well as support from GIDI, Meadow Mushrooms received co-funding and assistance from Meridian Energy and Orion that helped get the proposal across the line.

"When we looked at switching to an electric boiler, one of the big red flags was the running costs," says Armstrong. "Meridian offered us a really good deal on the electricity costs while Orion contributed to the electrical design and installation costs. The collaboration with our partners and Lumen, our energy consultants, was key to getting it across the line."

"We're trying our hardest to do our bit to combat climate change and we challenge other companies to do the same. Unless everybody does their bit, we're making it hard for ourselves as a country to meet our climate change targets."