Nursery benefits from EECA Award win as new awards open

As nominations open for the EECA Awards 2016, family-operated flower growing business K&L Nurseries says winning top honours in the 2014 Awards has helped put the nursery on the international horticultural map.

The small Christchurch company beat nine other category winners to take the Supreme Award and the Small to Medium Business Award for its New Zealand-first bioenergy boiler project. 

Owner, Paul Loader, says the win has prompted a steady flow of visitors to the nursery, from Japanese business students to local and international growers, all keen to see how a successful nursery operates.

“The exposure from winning the award has been just amazing,” Mr Loader says. “People saw it all over the world and I’m amazed people still comment on it.  We’re quite proud to show the award off.”

The EECA Awards celebrate organisations and individuals that demonstrate excellence in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Committed to an energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly approach, K&L Nurseries won the Supreme Award for its project to replace its inefficient coal-burning boiler with a biomass boiler, the first of its kind to be utilised by flower growers in New Zealand.

What had started as a small enterprise, with Paul and his wife Lyn growing roses to supply their florist shop, their flower growing business grew along with the blooms.  Joined by daughter Michelle and son-in-law Ian Kempthorne, after 15 years it was producing more than 2 million stems of cut flowers each year, selling them through wholesale auction houses and distributing them to retail clients across the South Island and in Wellington. 

All this required energy – lots of energy – to heat the nursery’s 0.8 hectares of glasshouses, and when it became evident the old coal-fired boiler needed replacing, Mr Loader sourced a biomass boiler from Europe, with funding assistance from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). The new boiler was installed in 2013 and immediately brought positive results.  Offering greater flexibility, it runs on wood and other fuel with up to 60% moisture content, cutting the nurseries’ energy costs by $100,000 a year, and avoiding around 3,500 tonnes of CO₂ emissions. The company also installed an innovative in-ground tank, further reducing energy needs.

“We saved on energy, but there have been other benefits as well,” Mr Loader says.  “Using renewable energy has given us a market edge, and unlike the toxic ash from the old coal-fired boiler, we can use the ash from the new boiler as fertiliser. It’s also means we don’t have to dispose of our green waste – it’s now simply burnt as fuel.”

Since its EECA Award win, K&L has continued to improve the performance of the boiler, improving the fuel mix and perfecting the temperature in its glasshouses. The storage tank has also undergone development, increasing its storage capacity and introducing better insulation.  With the money shaved off their energy bill, the company has been able to expand, sourcing new varieties of plants from around the world and opening a second retail outlet in Christchurch, employing another six people. 

EECA Chief Executive, Mike Underhill, says although the nursery business was relatively small, its win proved even smaller businesses could be winners.

“K&L’s achievement demonstrated that you don’t need to be a large corporate to make significant savings from improved energy use.” Mr Underhill says. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy delivers equally important benefits to smaller businesses.”

The EECA Awards are held every two years, and applications for the 2016 Awards are currently open. Categories include Community Energy Leadership, Energy Management, Innovation, Large Energy User, Public Sector, Renewable Energy, Small to Medium Energy User, and Transport. A new category is the Business Excellence Award, recognising an energy management service providers’ approach to supporting their clients and implementing successful projects.

Mr Underhill says being a finalist or winner of an EECA Award is a rewarding way to enhance an organisation’s profile, reputation and brand.

“Winners of EECA Awards are recognised as leaders in their field, and set the standard for energy management.  They inspire other businesses and community groups to step up their commitment to energy efficiency, helping to make New Zealand a better place to live – economically, environmentally and socially.  K&L Nurseries, along with other Supreme Award winners such as Air New Zealand and Downer NZ, have set the benchmark.”

Applications for the EECA Awards 2016 close on 5 February 2016. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Auckland on 18 May 2016.

Media enquiries:

Niels Reinsborg, Communications Advisor, EECA

Phone: 04 495 8254 or 027 487 7970

Email: niels.reinsborg@eeca.govt.nz