June 18, 2024
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Onion, celery growers tout energy projects


Ventura County took a another step toward becoming a global hub for sustainable agriculture on July 11 when two big Oxnard food processors unveiled major energy efficiency projects.

With a number of state and local officials in attendance, Gills Onions launched a major energy storage facility that will allow it to capture electricity generated at night and fuel its processing plant in daytime when rates are more than double off-peak hours. At the same time, Florida-based Duda Fresh Foods announced the installation of a 37,000 square foot array of solar panels designed to provide about seven-tenths of a megawatt of power in full sunlight.

“By being early adopters we advance sustainability,” said Steve Gill, co-founder of the onion processor. When it comes to agriculture, he added, “the county is becoming a sustainability hub.”

California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross said thatVenturaCountyrepresents a unique combination of “science and technology” and “family farms traditions” of knowledge handed down through generations. Among the speakers was Rory Bruton, a fourth grade student in Ventura County public schools who turned a trip to Gills Onions into a research project on sustainable farming.

On hand for the event were representatives from Limoneira Co., the citrus farming giant that built the county’s first agribusiness solar field as well as Houwelings, a Canadian firm that uses advanced greenhouse technology to grow tomatoes. Also represented were Harrison Industries, Republic Services, Southern California Gas Co., Agromin and the Bren School of Environmental Management at UC Santa Barbara.

Contractors on the Gills and Duda projects included Prudent Energy, Hartigan/Foley construction and Cenergy Power.