Commissioner's Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award
Citrus World, Inc.
Lake Wales, Florida
In 1933 several Florida citrus growers came together and pooled their resources to more effectively process and market their citrus. This effort resulted in the oldest and largest federated citrus processing cooperative in Florida.
Citrus World Inc., based in Lake Wales, now includes 12 grower organizations with 60,000 acres of prime citrus groves containing more than 6 million trees. The company's legacy of expansion and success is a reflection of the same innovative spirit that first guided the founding growers. That earlier foresight and creativity for marketing citrus 63 years ago, today is being applied to resource conservation and environmental protection.
Realizing that Central Florida's explosive population growth would place water at a premium, Citrus World embarked on a long-term program to find ways to minimize water usage nearly two decades ago. The process to make concentrate from fruit juice requires large quantities of water -- water that previously was being used once and then discharged. Reuse and recycling systems developed by Citrus World have greatly reduced the amount of water needed for production.
Citrus World designed a process to collect the water leaving the evaporators. Holding tanks capture the warm, clean water, which can be re-used in a number of ways, such as cleaning the fruit before processing, and can be used for "wash down" of equipment, floors and walls. Another benefit from the warm water is that it takes less chemical treatment and energy to reheat to make steam, which is the primary source of power for the plant's machinery. By re-using the pre-heated 140-degree water in the plant's three boilers and co-generator, substantial energy and dollar savings are realized. The savings result from not having to pump the cool well water from the aquifer, treat it with softeners and heat it.
As hot water is necessary for energy production, cooling water is required for removing heat from the product and the machinery used for making juice. Previously common "oncethrough" systems -- that drew cool water out of the aquifer, used it and discharged it -- have been replaced. Massive cooling towers now allow millions of gallons of heated water to be cooled and reintroduced to areas of the plant that require chilled water. In addition, all compressors in the refrigeration area have been switched from water-cooled units to a closed-loop system that uses glycol, a coolant, that further reduces water usage.
All these steps toward conservation have yielded great dividends. Over a 15-year period during which Citrus World doubled its production, it reduced water consumption by 90 percent.
One major project implemented at Citrus World is the separation of storm water from waste water. By diverting storm water away from the plant, it can be processed naturally by a series of retention ponds on its way to the Peace River.
Waste water from the plant is treated for re-use. After processing in the treatment facility, the water flows into a series of three retention ponds, where it is progressively filtered until it can be used as irrigation on orange groves or spray fields. Seventy species of birds and other aquatic wildlife that make the 50-acre pond their home. Citrus World is part of a study conducted by the Audubon Society, which keeps track of endangered species on site. -- 1996
- 1996 Agricultural Environmental Leadership Awards Booklet (PDF)
- Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award Nomination (PDF)