For the first time since the horse and carriage, BC organic fruit is again being delivered without fossil fuels.
Kootenay foodies and entrepreneurs Paul and Clare Kelly of Winlaw are helping shoppers at organic grocers ‘green up’ their produce purchases with their biofuel shipping company — Revolution Biodiesel.
“With much discussion around kitchen tables and in the media about the carbon impacts of food miles, we sometimes feel a little helpless,” says Paul. “Traditionally these food miles equate with massive volumes of diesel fuel, used to move heavy fresh food from far away orchards to packing houses, distribution warehouses, then on to retailers and consumer markets.”
Perishable foods like produce; dairy, eggs and meat require additional diesel fuel for the truck’s refrigeration unit. According to Paul, a typical freight truck will use over 500 L of diesel fuel to bring a load from Cawston (Canada’s organic fruit capital) to Calgary.
“Often these trucks return to the Okanagan empty or with a partial load, making it a 1,000 L round trip,” says Paul.
Sourcing produce from California extends this round trip by over 4,000 kilometres, and consumes an additional 1,200 to 1,400 L of diesel fuel per truckload, he says.
Making use of their contacts from a combined 25 years in Calgary’s natural food sector, and fuel from their on-farm biodiesel plant, the Kellys invested in a refrigerated truck that they could run on 100 per cent post-consumer fryer oil derived biodiesel.
Additionally, by shipping directly from farm to retail store without warehouse nodes, they are able to increase the share of retail proceeds to the farmers, and dramatically reduce food miles. A backhaul of Alberta organic crops such as feed, hay and straw ensures that the truck is running full to capacity as much as possible.
While supply of true waste-to-energy biofuels is currently limited to the 150,000 L per year of oil feedstock they collect from local restaurants, the Kellys currently have enough biofuel to run up to three semi-loads per week to Calgary — “moving over 120,000 lbs per week of fresh organic BC fruit,” says Paul.
They are hopeful that new technologies such as diesel electric hybrids become commercially viable as they grow, so that they can improve fuel economy and “further extend their company’s ability to offset the carbon footprint of your peaches and nectarines,” he says.
Their freight service maintained weekly deliveries throughout the 2013 BC produce season, hauling 250,000 lbs of produce, and covering nearly 100,000 kilometres from June through November, with no breakdowns or damaged freight claims.
They served organic retailers in Nelson including Kootenay Co-Op, Ellisons, and Endless Harvest. Farms who participated in the first year venture included George Zebroff, Honest Food Farm, Vialo Orchards, Schneider-Brown farm, Covert Farm, Mariposa Farm, Ven-Amour Orchards, JMJ Farms (Rothes), Forbes farm, and wholesalers Direct Organics Plus and Cawston Cold Storage.
Kootenay-made goods like Silverking Tofu, Sunshine Valley Organics (eggs), In Your Face Foods (dips), Kootenay Bakery, and Soup du Jar were also on board for delivery to Calgary retailers.