Title: 1996 Ag-Environmental: Citrus World, Inc.
Type: Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
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.
Stephen Caruso, CEO, Citrus World, Inc.: Our philosophy actually begins with the land because we own the land, we own the trees and we own the company. Our processing is an extension of our groves which is basically the land.
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, is today being applied to resource conservation and environmental protection.
Citrus World's commitment to high standards of quality and performance is demonstrated by its extensive, on-going capital outlay programs, which have allowed the company to ingeniously modify its production systems to keep pace with the environmental demands of the times.
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 company used consulting groups, its own engineers, and sought suggestions from its employees. Cutting water usage at a time when production was dramatically increasing presented a major challenge; but finding answers would not only benefit the environment, it would also make good business sense.
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.
Joe DeMarco, Engineering Mgr. Citrus World, Inc.: What we've done is put in a system to collect that water, store it in a tank, and then we use that for clean-ups in the plant. For example, in our clean in place process where we flush out lines with the water or clean tanks or other pieces of equipment, the ideal thing to flush orange juice out of a line is warm water.
This recycled water is also used to clean the fruit before processing after it's unloaded from the trucks, 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 -- 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 or 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 "once-through" systems that drew cool water out of the aquifer, used it and discharged it, have been replaced.
DeMarco: Instead of having a "once-through" where the water comes in, cools the product or the machine and then goes down the drain, we now have cooling towers which re-circulate that water and use it over and over and over again.
These massive cooling towers 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.
Another water conservation system Citrus World has put in place is the metering of water throughout the plant.
Charles Matthews, Director of Operations, Citrus World, Inc.: AIt allows us to monitor on a daily basis where the water is being used, and used as a management tool to evaluate trends and determine -- is our water usage up in particular areas and if so, focus our attention very soon on those areas.
All these steps toward conservation have yielded great dividends.
Matthews: Over the 15-year period, we've doubled our production. At the same time we've reduced our water consumption by 90 percent so we're extremely proud of that. Our conservation really doesn't stop with water, but we look at all energy and consumable sources that we use and our energy, our electrical energy, our steam, all of our consumables have been reduced over the same period.
Citrus World continually looks for new ways to promote efficiency. The owners -- the fruit growers -- have made an on-going financial commitment to support innovation. Citrus World invests millions of dollars every year on projects to improve its product and facility.
One major project implemented at Citrus World is the separation of storm water from waste water. Previously, storm water was mixed with the rest of the waste water and channeled to the plant's treatment facility. But storm water doesn't require the intense processing that waste water requires. 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 -- an environmentally sound solution that also proved to be more efficient.
Even 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. The water's purity is evident by the 79 species of birds and other aquatic wildlife that make the 50-acre pond their home.
DeMarco: We have some endangered species here on site. And those are actually kept track of by the Audubon Society, and they come in a look at how they're doing and we're part of the study with them.
Citrus World's success with water conservation is only a part of the company's overall efficiency. The concepts of reuse and recycling have extended into almost every area of production, including the orange itself.
The peel, seeds and cores are collected and processed at Citrus World's feed mill to be made into cattle feed. The oils found in the peel, are so versatile that they are used in making products as diverse as industrial cleaners, paint additives, flavorings and perfumes. Using these previously discarded parts of citrus fruit to manufacture such value-added products keeps the plant's waste to a minimum while generating revenue from their sale.
Matthews: The unique thing about citrus processing is that we're able to use every bit of that piece of material. There's nothing that goes to waste in a citrus plant.
To a large part, technology has enabled Citrus World to make advances in the area of conservation. With automated production systems, computer-controlled monitoring stations, and state-of-the-art laboratories, Citrus World continues to develop new and efficient methods to increase production, assure high standards of quality, and conserve natural resources; all done with an eye toward the future.
Caruso: We would like to continue to grow and fill the niche that we feel we can supply to the consumer which is a quality product as a protector of the land, we may own title to the land, but we're really borrowing the land to use, and we need to leave the land in such a good position as the next generation that comes along has the available use of the land as well. It's a natural resource that they're just not making anymore of, and we need to protect it the best possible way.