One of the nation’s largest fruit and vegetable growers, New Zealand Gourmet, hopes it has found a workaround after a nationwide shortage of commercial carbon dioxide supplies cut the production of tomatoes by about 20% at its site near Taupo.
NZ Gourmet is the latest big food producer to report a fall-out from the carbon dioxide shortage. Its facility in Mōkai, north of Taupō, is unusual in that it uses geothermal energy instead of coal or gas boilers to heat its greenhouses and sustainably produce tomatoes and peppers during winter.
But production director Roelf Schreuder said the downside of using cheap geothermal energy for heat was that the company needed to obtain about 30 tons of CO2 each week to optimize growing conditions at the facility.
The Marsden refinery had produced carbon dioxide as a by-product of its refining process, and the impact of its closure has been exacerbated by production problems at Todd Energy’s Kapuni gas field in Taranaki, which is now the only domestic source of liquid and food grade CO2.
NZ Gourmet is banking on new technology developed by Callaghan Innovation spin-off Hot Lime Labs to get its vines back to full production.