Gilfresh take back the power

Pictured (l-r) are William Gilpin, partner at Gilfresh Produce, Richard Stack, corporate banking manager at Danske Bank and Thomas Gilpin, owner of Gilfresh Produce.
Pictured (l-r) are William Gilpin, partner at Gilfresh Produce, Richard Stack, corporate banking manager at Danske Bank and Thomas Gilpin, owner of Gilfresh Produce.

Vegetable processor Gilfresh Produce have invested more than £2.5m in a new system which will address and tackle their rising energy costs.

The investment was supported by Danske Bank.

The company have installed an anaerobic digester which will see 120 tonnes per week of waste vegetables being used to generate enough energy to power the factory.

All excess energy will be sold back to the grid.

Gilfresh Produce are a family-run company based in Loughgall, established by the Gilpin family more than 50 years ago.

In the beginning the family grew cabbages and scallions for the Belfast market. Now in its third generation, the business employs 130 staff, manages the growing of over 2,500 acres of field vegetables and salad crops and supplies all major supermarket chains.

The anaerobic digester will allow the business to be self-sufficient energy producers at a time when rising costs are putting pressure on companies across Northern Ireland.

William Gilpin, partner at Gilfresh Produce, said, “Four years ago we realised that we could utilise our waste products in a more efficient way. At that point we were selling waste vegetables to farmers for feed at a very low margin.

“The business was facing several pressures including increasing energy costs, poor weather and challenging trading conditions. We travelled to a few sites in Europe to see how anaerobic digesters could work for us and we saw that it would complement and enhance our business operations.”

“It has taken a lot of planning but we are finally at the stage where the system is up and running and producing electricity. We have one full time employee who is in charge of the digester, which sits in a three acre field beside our factory.”

Mr Gilpin added: “Our core business banking is with Danske Bank and when we approached them about our idea for this system they were very keen to help.

“We were concerned that we would need to look at an external investor with higher interest rates. However, Danske presented us with an excellent proposal to support our business in our plans for the future.”

Richard Stack, corporate banking manager at Danske Bank, said, “Gilfresh are a very innovative business and the family are continuously seeking improvements and solutions which will make their operations more efficient and sustainable. They are one of only a handful of companies to install an anaerobic digester in Northern Ireland.

“Their efforts were recognised at Balmoral Show when William won the Marks and Spencer Young Producer of the Year award. The company also picked up the Tomorrow Matters Award at the Henderson Wholesale Local Supplier of the Year awards for their outstanding contribution to CSR.”

Mr Stack added, “We understand rising energy costs are presenting a significant threat to many agricultural businesses and we have been pleased to support Gilfresh with an investment to address this issue head on.”