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Alternative Energy

Blazing a trail for a more sustainable, efficient industry

The wind turbine met several criteria Testa Produce’s management had for expanding the business. First, they knew the growing company needed to operate more efficiently; second, because they were expanding, Bader said, “we needed to find a way to increase our competitive edge and offer something that really helped us stand out.” 

Peter Testa, company president, saw ‘going green’ as an opportunity to not only do something different, but help the planet at the same time. “If we don’t take care of the earth,” he says, “we don’t have a business or a safe atmosphere for future generations.”

Wise Words & Counsel

For those wishing to invest in more eco-friendly energy solutions, first and foremost, our sources advised extensive research.  Mandel says to carefully weigh your options, as a number of alternative energy companies have sprung up in recent years.  “Shop around like crazy,” he advises, and do “a true ‘apples to apples’ comparison.”  Sunfed looked into solar power for three years, he says, meeting “with six different companies to weigh the pros and cons of various technologies, service providers, contractors, and manufacturers.” 

Above all, those seeking these innovations need to be excited about the learning process and educating themselves on the variety of options available.

Bader suggests taking field trips to learn from organizations that have already implemented similar green projects.  Although ‘going green’ can be expensive initially, in many scenarios, the long-term ROI is well worth it.  Burton cautions everyone to crunch numbers on when “payback will come to fruition.” He emphasizes the importance of looking at the bigger picture and future benefits, instead of only the immediate or shorter term costs.

Hidden Benefits

 Benefits can also be realized in other ways: Testa Produce’s wind turbine gave the company a great deal of exposure and was used as a successful marketing tool.  SunFed’s solar installation aligned with
a wider branding message of sustainability, and Mandel sees many intangible benefits from reducing environmental pollutants, outside the company’s actual return on investment.

“There are always new technologies coming up,” Bader highlights, “so don’t be afraid to explore your options and think outside the box.”  She does warn, though, that as with any new technology there are often kinks that will need to be worked out.  In the long run, however, Bader says the benefits outweigh the learning process and surprises that may come with eco-friendly implementations.

Concluding Thoughts

For produce firms interested in alternative energy sources—such as wind and solar power—the benefits are many, but there are certainly risks.  For Sunfed, Peter Rabbit Farms, and Testa Produce it was important to find projects that were both environmentally and economically sustainable.  Each also capitalized on weather attributes to succeed—plenty of sunshine in Arizona and California, and year-round wind in blustery Chicago, Illinois.