Promising new technology using leftover forestry wood to extract clean carbon dioxide is expected to benefit commercial greenhouses growers and the environment.
The Kiwi invention would help increase crop yield and reduce emissions at the same time.
New Zealand Gourmet's Roelf Schreuder said the produce wholesaler is currently getting CO2 for their Taupo crops from Taranaki as a waste product, which is brought in through trucks every week and "can be a hassle".
Now, Hot Lime Labs has developed a way of producing clean CO2 on site. The technology uses wood chips warms the plants at night while producing carbon dioxide, which is soaked up by limestone pellets, which acts as a "CO2 sponge," founder and CEO Vlatko Materic said.
“It grabs CO2 and lets all the other components out and then releases CO2 on demand on contact with air."
Trials have shown the higher-quality gas creates better produce.
“It gives a bigger yield and better fruit at the same time so they probably would have increased the output by 10 per cent,” Materic said.
The company now wants to work with the forestry industry to use its problematic waste wood, or slash.
“All the things that would be otherwise just rotting on the ground, emitting their CO2 anyway, and are much lower cost and also readily available everywhere.”
The technology is seen as a game changer for growers in the South Island who rely on coal, which is subject to the emissions trading scheme.
Switching to biomass fuel like slash would avoid the cost of levies placed on higher emission energy sources.
"By using the opportunity to take the CO2 production from that biomass and add it to the greenhouse, that makes it a much more attractive option for growers," Tomatoes NZ’s Helen Barnes said.
A commercial model is expected in the middle of next year, and there is already interest from growers around the country.