AFTER years of trying unsuccessfully to convince pig farmers to invest in climate-controlled barns as a means of growing pigs more efficiently, CB is building its own farm on property in Hill Run, St Catherine.
The CB group, which produces poultry, pork and other valued-added meat products, recently opened a retail store carrying its own Copperwood line of fresh pork.
"Since it's never been done before in Jamaica and few have ever seen one in operation, we were essentially selling a concept without proof that it actually worked in our market. So, as a last resort, the company decided to build our own facility where we could test a number of things, including tunnel ventilation, feed formulas and solar power," CB Foods' chief operating officer Matthew Lyn told the Jamaica Observer.
But its motivation runs deeper than that and is not dissimilar to a growing number of businesses which are increasingly incorporating alternative forms of energy.
"We've been talking about solar power and other ways to reduce our electricity bill for a long time within the company, and when the opportunity presented itself to test it on a greenfield project, we took the decision to invest in the technology.
"Plus, it's the environmentally responsible thing to do, which is very important to us and something we will continue to build on in the future," he said.
The facility, which has three barns of about 25,000 sq ft and a tunnel ventilation system, houses 3,000 market pigs and costs in excess of $100 m. It will be complete within another two weeks.
Lyn conceded that "these types of houses are much more expensive up front, but long-term should theoretically be better for the farmer in terms of efficiency and management".
According to Byron Ward, business development manager at Alternative Power Sources Limited which is installing the solar equipment at the CB facility, the benefits are four-fold:
* Cooler temperatures to reduce the use of fans and assist in pig body temperature control;
* Stabilising power distribution and improving delivery of electricity throughout the farm's electrical system. (The reduced distance for electricity to be carried also improves the efficiency of motors and other machine operation);
* Reducing the demand load of the facility by providing power to absorb initial motor start-up power requirements; and
* Lowering the cost of production.
Ward told the Observer that a total of 192 panels will be installed. He explained that they will convert the sun's ultraviolet rays into direct current (DC), which will then be converted to alternating current (AC) that allows for the utilisation of AC-powered appliances and equipment.
"A solar-powered pig farm will allow the company to offset the use of the utility grid. This offset yields tremendous savings, resulting in a four-year payback of the system," he explained.
Asked whether there were plans to convert CB's chicken farms to solar energy, Lyn said some farmers contracted to the company have recently taken the decision to go solar, and added that the tests from the pig farm will drive future decisions.