Leading Canadian sweet Bell pepper grower SunSelect Produce has taken the greenhouse gas emissions out of the greenhouse with new technology that converts the carbon dioxide created in the greenhouse heating process into fertilizer for the pepper plants.
The revolutionary system, which was publicly launched in mid-April by SunSelect's sister company, ProSelect Gas Treating Inc., is called GC6 Green Carbon Capture.
In the GC6 GreenCarbon Capture process, wood-waste (biomass) is combusted in a boiler to heat the 40-acre greenhouse, then the remaining flue gas is cooled, stripped of its carbon dioxide using a water-based organic solvent, and stored in a buffer tank, according to Victor Krahn, director and co-founder of ProSelect.
"Carbon-free excess vapor is harmlessly emitted into the atmosphere," Mr. Krahn said in a July 9 press release. "The resulting pure carbon dioxide-laden solvent is boiled off to release food-grade [carbon dioxide] gas at the demand of the greenhouse, cooled and administered directly to the plants, in a seamless, computer-controlled and monitored process."
SunSelect is one of about a dozen greenhouse operations in British Columbia that uses non-marketable waste products (biomass) from the timber industry as a heat source. But it is currently the only one that repurposes the carbon dioxide the trees had respired in their lifetime into a source of nutrition for new plants.
"Carbon dioxide is a basic building block for all plant life," Mr. Krahn added in the press release. "Without it, plants would not be able to breathe or convert the combined energy of the sun and the carbon dioxide itself into healthy vegetables and fruits."
In the past, SunSelect, like other greenhouses, had used only liquid carbon dioxide and natural gas to deliver enriched carbon dioxide to nourish the plants but had sought alternatives that accomplished the same task using renewable energy sources.
"We've always been interested in doing more with less," said Mr. Krahn, who has been involved in the SunSelect growing operation throughout the two-and-a-half decades since his parents established it.
"We converted from natural gas heat to biomass several years ago, and pioneered a carbon-neutral pepper program in 2007," he said. "We believed it was possible to capture carbon dioxide from wood waste and use it to grow food, so we kept an eye out for a way to do it. Our engineering partner, Procede BV, a leading Dutch firm specializing in innovative green technologies, had developed the idea, but needed a greenhouse environment and a commercial scale opportunity like ours in which to develop and prove it."
Procede and SunSelect joined to form Pro-Select in 2009. Partial funding for the research and development of ProSelect's GC6 Green Carbon Capture system was provided by Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and the Innovative Clean Energy Fund, a government entity in British Columbia that supports the development of clean power and energy efficiency technologies.
"The system is truly remarkable, and can serve as a powerful point of differentiation for SunSelect," Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director for the Oppenheimer Group, which is the exclusive marketer of SunSelect peppers, said in the press release. "We now have an even stronger sustainability message standing behind our SunSelect pepper program. We are introducing the program through social media and point-of-sale material that directs consumers to SunSelect's recently refreshed website. SunSelect is already recognized for the excellent quality peppers it produces. Now, conscientious retailers are starting to understand the benefits of a truly sustainable system. We are very proud to be associated with such a visionary grower who cares so much about the world around us."