Tomato growers in a seaside town in the southwestern deparment of the Landes have signed an agreement with Canadian oil company Vermilion to mass produce tomatoes in greenhouses heated using byproducts from oil drilling at Parentis-en-Born
The deal envisages building 17 hectares of greenhouses by 2012 which will provide the capacity to produce 30 to 85 million tons of tomatoes every year. The greenhouses will be heated by cogeneration – capturing byproduct heat from the oil drilling process and converting it into electricity. The project will cost 20 million euros and is funded by four farmers – all agricultural engineers belonging to Odelis, a fruit and vegetable cooperative in the south of France, as well as by regional and local authorities and the European Union.
Technically, this is a first for France. The sulphurized gas will be recaptured and used to power a cogeneration factory which will transform it into electricity. This electricity will in turn heat the greenhouses. Even the hot water expelled by the drilling operation at 60 C will be channelled through a heat pump to supplement the electricity generation. The greenhouses themselves will use water in a closed circuit and the tomatoes will be grown on eco-friendly substrata of coconut fibres which can be recycled.
The deal provides an eco-friendly image for Vermilion as well as the prospect of staying competitive for the French tomato farmers, whose main competition comes from Spain, Morocco and Turkey, all of which have significantly lower labour costs. “More than 40 percent of our production costs come from electricity, which has become 30 percent more expensive in recent years,” said Bruno Vila, one of the partners in the project.
via Le Monde