Sunshine Seedling Services was awarded the innovation award for 2 new operations introduced over the last year. Firstly was our recycling of waste water and secondly the introduction of renewable energy.

Our recycling program was introduced to recycle all our waste water that was running off the nursery. The excess water was channeled into drains which led into a large plastic lined reservoir. With Mike Kruger’s help we had a flocculating tank built where the water is flocculated with sulphur and the impurities are collected and discarded to waste. The clean water is then treated with chlorine and returned into the watering system. In addition rainwater is collected from our roofs and tunnels and fed straight back into the nursery reservoirs. The use of water meters has enabled us to calculate that approximately 10% of our water is now sourced through these methods.

The second innovation has been the building of a bio digester and the installation of solar panels to reduce our electricity bill.  The bio digester uses nursery waste, cane tops, grass cuttings, essential oil mulch, chicken litter and kraal manure as the feedstock. To simplify the process these products are chipped, if too large, and ground into a soluble solution which is agitated and then fed into an aerobic digester where the microbes break down this mixture into methane gas, solids and liquid.  The methane gas is used to heat a boiler for a distillery for essential oils and the hot water generated from this is used to heat our tunnels for cuttings. When we are not using the distillery the excess methane is used for either heating of the tunnels or generating electricity. The bio digester still has some teething problems but is generating methane gas in smaller quantities. The solid component will be used in trials as a growing medium and also as an organic fertiliser for our essential oils on the farm. The liquid will be used as a liquid fertilizer for the nursery and the essential oils.

The final new introduction is the use of solar panels for generating power. These are especially useful as they generate power in the peak and medium use periods during the day when our electricity, which is on a ruraflex tariff, is at its highest cost. More panels are being installed as the ones being used so far have been working extremely well.

The credit for the implementation of these innovations must be given to Bryn Pollard, Ian Sumner and the rest of the Sunshine Team.